The watersports industry has seen dramatic changes over the past decade, which means there is a huge demand for watersports instructors and the offer of rewarding long-term career paths.
“Watersports employers have a desperate need for keen and enthusiastic people, with the right qualifications and attitude,” says Jess Harrison, UKSA Industry Guidance Co-ordinator. “At the moment, the number of graduates we can supply is not matching demand.”
It’s possible to work in watersports in a wide variety of stunning locations around the world. Most positions are in the Med, but there are a growing number of centres opening around the Red Sea, Caribbean, United Arab Emirates and Indian Ocean. Equally, for those who prefer to be closer to home, there are plenty of opportunities throughout the UK.
Who is it for?
With the right training you don’t need to already be a watersports pro to become an instructor, all that’s needed is enthusiasm, determination and a passion to pass your skills onto others. “Our students come from an amazing variety of backgrounds,” says Jess. “On any one course are individuals who face financial or emotional disadvantage and receive support from organisations such as The Princes Trust or Job Centre, right through to those who’ve been to the best schools in the country.”
A career in watersports is ideal for those that learn best in a practical environment, have good verbal communication skills and get on well with others. Employers also look for people with a passion for their watersports, who use their initiative and work well in a team.
Training to become a watersports instructor is a great alternative to university. As an instructor you can build a long-term career in the industry or move into similar areas such as managing watersports activities on some of the world’s largest superyachts.
Getting started in a watersports career
For maximum employability, you should train as an instructor in three watersports disciplines. This is because employers not only need staff that have the right attitude, are hard-working and reliable, from a business point of view they also need their instructors to be able to work on any given day teaching a variety of popular watersports activities.
Kayaking, dinghy sailing and windsurfing are considered the core instructor qualifications to have in your watersports portfolio. It is also important that these are industry recognised Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and British Canoe Union (BCU) qualifications.
If as part of your training, you would like to enhance your instructor skills further and gain confidence in your teaching abilities, UKSA’s Watersports Instructor Training Plus programme will do just that. Alongside gaining the core instructor qualifications, you will spend an extra 8 weeks developing advanced coaching and instructional techniques from UKSA’s experienced senior instructors. You will also upgrade your portfolio by gaining extra RYA instructors qualifications including multi-hull, keelboat and performance sailing endorsements.
“Kayaking, dinghy sailing and windsurfing are considered the core instructor qualifications to have in your watersports portfolio. It is also important that these are industry recognised Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and British Canoe Union (BCU) qualifications.”
Another option is to complete UKSA’s Watersports Instructor Internship. You will complete the same training as the organisation’s Watersports Instructor Training Plus programme but also be guaranteed your first season’s work with either UKSA or Neilson.
UKSA is also in the unique position to offer personal mentoring and industry guidance throughout your studies, as well as access to its online jobs board to help you find that ideal job to begin your watersports career.
You may find that by the end of your first or second season you want to expand your portfolio by becoming an instructor in other disciplines. This could include kitesurfing, jet skis or newly popular paddleboarding.
There are many opportunities for well-qualified and experienced instructors to further their careers, both within the watersports industry and in other related areas. Two or three seasons with a company can lead to becoming head of the windsurfing or dinghy sailing department. With a couple more years of experience you can be looking at a waterfront manager’s position working up to resort manager. Another option is to work in the company’s head office; many senior members of staff at watersports operators first joined the company as instructors.
There are numerous watersports and outdoor activity centres throughout Britain, both on the coast and inland on rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Local education authorities run many of these centres and offer year-round employment and teachers’ pay to experienced and well-qualified staff.
Yachting is another area which a lot of watersports instructors gravitate to. “Many of our watersports instructors move into yachting” say Jess, “whether it’s managing watersports on a superyacht or training to become a flotilla skipper, it is another industry offering varied jobs around the world.”
If you are looking at extending your career into the yachting industry you will not only need a strong watersports background and experience but the right qualifications to work on a yacht. You will need to complete STCW Basic Training (this is mandatory in the yachting industry if you want to work on commercial yachts over 24m) and ideally be trained as a commercially endorsed RYA Yachtmaster, although some boats will employ you with RYA Day Skipper qualifications.
“On any one course are individuals who face financial or emotional disadvantage and receive support from organisations such as The Princes Trust or Job Centre, right through to those who’ve been to the best schools in the country.”
What is the pay like?
Pay varies depending on location and role. While those working overseas tend to be paid less, the positions are normally all inclusive with flights, food, accommodation and clothing all paid for, meaning that instructors’ disposable incomes is often relatively high. In addition, some employers allow their staff to use the watersports equipment for free during their time off.
Based on this you could expect to earn £70 – £250 a week depending on your experience and portfolio of qualifications. In addition, instructors can earn more through commission gained when booking one-to-one tuition with clients. For example a top RYA instructor could earn an extra £2,500 a year, and a jetski instructor could bring in an extra £3,500.
If you choose to head into the yachting industry, entry level wages generally start at £2,000 a month.