Trying to figure out how to become a surf instructor? Want to turn the beach into your office and become a surf coach?
Well I don’t blame you!
I first became a surf instructor back in 2010 and it actually kickstarted my life on the road chasing waves. Since then I’ve worked in all over the world – including Ecuador, Morocco, Portugal, New Zealand and even the UK.
Also if you’re wanting to go live the dream as well and turn your passion into a career here’s everything you need rot know about becoming a surf instructor…
How To Become A Surf Instructor
This is the most common questions I always get asked – so what level of surf experience do you need to become a surf instructor?
You might be surprised to discover that your personal level of surfing doesn’t actually need to be crazily good for teaching beginner lessons and the criteria are;
- Paddle out back safely in head high surf
- Turn left and right on green, unbroken waves
- Perform a top and bottom turn both left and right
- Kick out of the wave safely
What Certification Do I Need?
The most common, worldwide surf instructor certification is the ISA Level 1 (International Surf Association), which is accepted all over the globe and is the perfect course to get going on your surf instructor career.
Alongside this you’ll usually need a surf lifesaver certification as well – I actually ended up doing my full Beach Lifeguard Award (mainly due to the dates I had free to complete the course!) which was heaps of fun and I learnt some great skills.
How Long Will It Take?
If you’re already a competent surfer you can complete your surf instructor course in just under a week, with the surf lifesaver certification taking about a week as well.
Most places that offer the surf coach courses offer both, so you can do them back to back if you want, or split them up if needed.
On top of that you’ll then also need to complete 20 hours of supervised coaching to solidify the course – which is easy enough to get done, just email your local surf school and chat to them about getting it done. Most surf coach courses will have a list of recommended schools they work with and can give you the details if you need some help.
For your surf instructor course you’ll spend most of the course dealing with teaching techniques (for all ages) as well as the health and safety aspect – including your pre lesson speech and in water hazards. This is a mixture of practical group role plays and also written classroom work.
In fact your actual surf assessment only takes up about 45 mins of the entire thing!
For the surf lifesaving it’s essentially a standard first aid training course (including CPR etc etc) with the added extras of in water rescues, using paddle boards, spinal boards and beach CPR. Again this is a mixture of practical lessons as well as classroom work – culminating in both a theory and practical assessment.
Check out the video below for a good overview of what you can expect.
Zero to Hero Courses
Not quite at the level of surfing you need to complete your surf instructor course yet?
No worries – there are actually some epic “zero to hero” style courses out there which will take you from very little experience (heck you could never have surfed and jump on them, although I don’t advise that!), all the way through to full certified surf coach!
These courses take around 10-12 weeks, and if you put in the work you should be able to get to a solid level of surfing by the end.
Now they do get a lot of stick from some surf coaches, but if you do the maths they’re packing in a huge amount of surf time (about 5 years worth compared to a weekend warrior surfer!) and with excellent coaches there’s no reason you won’t be able to take you skills to the level you need.!
Honestly if you’re looking for the best option the South Africa Surf Instructor Course by the crew of Ticket To Ride is the best one out there! Their coaches are of epic standard (head coach Bondi is the South African Junior Team Coach and Jarred competes on the WQS!) and it also packs in the biggest variation of surf breaks too.
In fact there are 7 stops across the 10 weeks from Cape Town to Durban so you’ll gain experience in a huge variety of surf spots and conditions as well as packing in some epic non surf activities and community projects too!
Another firm favourite is the Bali surf instructor course – because, well who doesn’t love surfing in Bali? Based in the surfer hotspot of Canggu the crew of Solid Surf House will teach you everything you need to know as well as packing in some awesome weekend trips to help you explore more of what Bali has to offer.
They even do a free flight offer for the first 3 spots on each start date too…winning!
Oh and if you’re already a competent surfer they also have a 8 and 4 week option too.
Australia isn’t the cheapest place to do your surf instructor course but it’s certainly one of the most fun – and this one based at Spot X with the crew of Mojo Surf will have you frothing! Over 12 weeks you’ll get all the skills you need to complete your level one course as well as being able to smash out your 20 hours straight after and gain heaps of hands on work experience too.
Mojo have surf camps across Indonesia as well, so there’s plenty of scope for becoming a surf guide for them!
One of the first places to offer the zero to hero format this 10 week surf instructor Course in Morocco with Surf Berbere is based slap in the middle of one of the most wave rich coastlines I’ve ever explored!
In fact I actually ran this course for them for a while!
It’s a great option for those based in Europe (it’s only a 4 hour flight from the UK) and also includes community projects, French lessons and all your surf kit throughout.
Ok I’ll be totally straight here – being a surf instructor is not going to make your rich! What it can give you however is an epic lifestyle by the beach, which is the main draw for most surf coaches!
When it comes to the pay it can vary a huge amount!
However my feedback to most people is that if you want to make good money then the USA, Europe and Australia are all good places to head. Other spots in contrast (such as South America, South East Asia) are a much more fun lifestyle, but don’t come with a huge pay cheque – in fact most of them are free accom and food with a basic local wage.
As a personal example in Portugal I got free accommodation, meals and a €700 per month pay cheque. It might not sound like a huge amount, but I managed to save at least €500 of that each month.
On the other hand when I worked in Ecuador I got free accommodation, some meals but only $150 per month.
A lot of coaches I know find a good balance between to two, some even going as far as working a Euro season to save and then flying over to spots like Bali or South America for their surf season for a change of pace and waves!
When it comes to finding work as a surf instructor it’s like any other job – it’s all about being proactive, networking and getting yourself out there!
One of the easiest places to find surf camps and surf resorts looking for instructors is via a few of the Facebook groups that have popped up. There’s always fresh ads on there from all over the world;
Email Some Surf Camps!
Stuck for ideas? Well just Google surf camps in the areas you’re wanting to head and start emailing them!
One word of warning though – don’t send a 2 line email being like “have you got any surf jobs I’d love to live by the beach”, you’ve got to approach this properly!
Put together a surf CV listing your certifications, surf experience and even other jobs you’ve had that could be relevant (customer service jobs, teaching, anything that will show you’ve got experience), as well as including a short video clip or photos of you ripping some waves!
Get a good cover letter (don’t be afraid to chuck your personality in there, this isn’t selling double glazing!) and start pitching!
To give you a bit of a jump start here are a couple options I always recommend to people asking me;
Montanita Spanish School
These guys are always looking for surf interns and it’s a great place to get your first season under your belt. In fact that’s where I landed my first surf job and heaps of buddies have headed there since. You won’t get paid much, but trust me it’s heaps of fun! Drop them an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and say I sent you there way!
La Point Surf Camps
Another great company to work for and I’ve got a few buddies who have been working with them for years now! The great thing about them is they have camps all over the place – including Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Bali and even Norway – so once you get in with them you can change location pretty easily.
A Quick Roundup
There’s a lot of info above but to make things a little simpler here’s a quick roundup on how to become a surf instructor;
- Get your skill level ready
- Get your surf instructor and surf lifesaver course done
- Or invest in a zero to hero course
- Put together and epic CV and cover letter
- Include some video or photos if possible
- Trawl around the surf jobs sites and Facebook groups
- Start emailing some surf schools and surf camps!
And there you have it guys – get out there, turn the ocean into your office and enjoy an epic lifestyle of work and travel!