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Jobs in Surfing: Surf Instructor


Photo courtesy Ryan Perring

Sun, surf and smiles…or not?! Ever wondered what it’s like working as a surf instructor? SurfGirl caught up with two surfers spending the summer in Cornwall working as surf instructors.

The summer season invites new people down to the beaches of Cornwall each year and many of them are eager to learn how to surf. We spoke to Rosie O’Neil and Amy Cavender, from Surf’s Up Surf School at Polzeath about their experiences as surf instructors.

At the beginning Rosie found it a bit difficult to lead lessons, and scary to be in charge of 8 people. But she says that with a bit of experience she became more confident in her teaching skills.

It’s a freelance job, you’re self-employed so you kind of just have to be up and ready to go. Some days you’ll have two lessons and others you’ll have four.

Rosie first started surfing six years ago when she was influenced by friends and family, and soon after she started competing. Now at 18 she has been teaching others how to surf for the last two years.

It’s a nice way to pass on surfing, it’s the best paid job you can have because you’re always in the water. You get to meet all these new people.

When she first began coaching she was the only girl at her surf school but now there are two other girls teaching with her. The number of girls in her lessons has also increased but she does still encounter some negativity from boys.

Sometimes they’ll say ‘you’re the one coming with us? Will you be able to get out there?’ Yes. I can paddle. Girls can get out there, we’re not just models in bikinis.

Rosie has just finished A-levels and is saving up for her gap year.

Despite the negativity she remains positive and enjoys teaching. 

It’s a fantastic feeling to see someone catch their first wave. And being in the water all day is really the best.”

Photo courtesy Ryan Perring

Amy started surfing when she was ten and after finishing school two years ago she went to South Africa for her gap year where she took coaching lessons.

Surfing is a sport where you can go out into the sea for free all around the world, since I started surfing in Cornwall during the summer I’ve met all these nice people who are so down to earth.

During the summer Amy can be found on the beach teaching kids how to surf while she’s on break from university.

Photo courtesy Johnny Colbert

Photo courtesy Kobe Surf

It’s an informal job but it’s very full-on. You’ve got quite a busy day of two sometimes three lessons a day. You tend to teach every day but you can ask for a day off if you need it. There has never been a day I haven’t enjoyed. It does get physically challenging when it’s cold but I loved every lesson I’ve ever taught.

Normally I teach groups of girls. I think girls tend to be more comfortable around girl instructors because it can be less intimidating. I remember surf lessons at their age, I remember being one of them.

The best part is the moment when they caught their first wave and they look back at you and give you a thumbs up. You want to make sure that you’re looking at them when they stand up because that little thumbs up is special.

Photo courtesy Ryan Perring

Words by Nicole Simas Gheller.

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