Working with Water: The Instructor Journey

The RYA Chief windsurfing instructor, Amanda van Santen, shares how becoming an instructor can take you around the world and lead to unbelievable opportunities.

RYA become an instructor
Amanda Van Santen - centre of image

Having now been in the industry for almost 15 years, I would probably say becoming an RYA Instructor has opened up some of the most amazing opportunities for me, including, travelling and teaching in some of the world’s best windsurfing locations, meeting the nicest people and landing my dream job at the RYA helping others to do the same thing.

I think we’d all like to get paid to go windsurfing and this industry really does open up some fantastic opportunities whether full-time, part-time or voluntary, but its recognition as being a ‘true’ career path still seems to be questionable, with very few of us ever coming close to becoming a pro!

But before you despair, there are other ways to make your passion your occupation, and I feel I am proof of that. However, I caught up with a few other windsurfers who have also managed to make their passion their job and take time to tell us about what openings it can lead on to.

Tom Buggy, avid windsurfer and kitesurfer, having grown up by the sea with Hill Head being his local spot, along with the sailing buddies Paul Hunt & Chris Audsley, made being out on the water a priority. But after a number of years competing on the UKWA, Tom chose the coaching route, enabling him to continue his passion.

RYA become an instructor. Credit UKSA
Credit UKSA

Having now been an RYA instructor for over 14 years, Tom’s clocked up over 10,000 hours teaching – pretty impressive, but not as impressive as ‘just some’ of the places his qualification has taken him. From Cornwall; Cowes, Isle of Wight and Turkey; to Dahab, Egypt; Minorca; Mooloolaba, Eastern Australia and a true windsurfing mecca……the West Coast of Australia! Not bad for what people would label ‘an industry without opportunity!!’

But what’s he doing now I hear you ask………when I caught up with Tom, he was in the middle of the Bosphorus, Istanbul (also known as the Istanbul Straits) helping the race logistics and organising for the Extreme Sailing Series – not a bad progression for a windsurfing instructor, and pretty sure I would class that as a career path with both opportunity and difference!

So, fancy taking the steps? Well, Phil Ryan recently did and tells us exactly how and why………….

Having never really thought about becoming a windsurfing instructor, Phil found himself a little lost after taking his A-levels and decided to take an NVQ in Activity Leadership at UKSA, Cowes (www.uksa.org). It was during this course Phil discovered a passion for teaching.

RYA become an instructor. Credit RYA
Credit RYA

UKSA based in Cowes, Isle of Wight, is an RYA Training Centre that provides an opportunity to train in watersports and yachting to the highest level. After his NVQ, Phil stayed at UKSA and took his RYA Dinghy instructor, then on to Dahab, Egypt, to take his RYA Windsurfing Instructor during a professional instructor training course.

“One of the best bits of my training were the good friends I made, it doesn’t take long for everyone to come out of their shells we you spend so much time training together!……….The 3 weeks we spent in in Egypt where pretty special – incredible conditions, and windsurfing every day!”

Phil has now been employed by UKSA, and just starting out in his first season.

The job is varied and I get to teach a different session or a different group all the time’” but as with every job, you have to take the rough with the smooth, teaching windsurfing in the sun one day, and in the pouring rain and freezing cold another!

RYA become an instructorAVS: What’s the best part of your job?

PR: For me it’s the rewarding feeling you get teaching someone, seeing them generally enjoying themselves and progressing. But it can be challenging too, the hours are long and you generally don’t get much time to yourself. But, would I rather be sitting in an office all day, or all day out on the water…………..no competition! I would highly recommend it to anyone.  After an incredible few months training I’m now out on the water everyday teaching and really enjoying what I do!

AVS: How are you hoping to use the qualification in the future, do you have any aspirations within the industry?

PR: My dream has always been to travel, so after this I’d love to look for work abroad. Maybe expand my current skills, becoming a multi-qualified instructor, opening up more doors. But, longer term I haven’t really given much thought, I’d love to stay in the industry for a few years…….watch this space for where I end up!

Phil Ryan - credit UKSA
Phil Ryan - credit UKSA

AVS: How did you first get into windsurfing?

PR: Growing up on the Isle of Wight, I feel I’ve been blessed with the best conditions for watersports, but strangely I never took up windsurfing until I started my course at the UKSA. I learnt pretty much everything I know while I was out in Egypt, that’s one of the great things about the course, it can take you from an absolute beginner, to where I am now -  having fallen in love with the sport and just wanting to push myself as far as I can.

AVS: Did you need to be an amazing windsurfer to become an instructor?
PR: No, you don’t need to be an incredible windsurfer, but you do need to be able to windsurf to a good standard, but I thought the level was easily achievable, with a little hard work and dedication. I had no previous experience before starting at UKSA and after my time in Egypt I was ready for my instructor course.

AVS: What top tips and advice would you give others who may be considering becoming an RYA instructor?

PR: Go for it! It’s an incredible job but also an incredible lifestyle. Since starting work I haven’t look backed on my decision once, and get really excited about all the possibilities ahead!

Check out Phil’s interview in Dahab:



An intensive course like Phil took at UKSA is just one of the routes to becoming an instructor. If you can already windsurf, you may be able to go straight on to the five day course. Check out the RYA website – www.rya.org.uk for further details on RYA instructor qualifications and where you can take them.

Still need a little more convincing………take a look at the RYA publication ‘Working with Water’ (Code G65), a fantastic book with real life case studies of the different jobs in the watersports industry, the training people have undertaken and paths they have paved to get where they are………..so, what are you waiting for!!

 

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