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Ever want an adventure travel job that involves all the best things in life: beaches, babes, and bros? How about a travel job that you can do all over the world in tropical paradises and allows you to party all night long until you stumble into “the office” in the morning? If this sounds better than laughing at your bosses lame jokes and a two hour commute, maybe you should get your adventure travel job fixin’ and become a Surfing Instructor. This week I interviewed BackpackerBanter’s Chris Stevens to find out what it takes to get a job as a surfing instructor.
Who are you and what is your travel and adventure job overseas experience?
I’m Chris – a 25 year old Devonian (that’s someone from Devon in England for anyone who doesn’t know…we like to separate ourselves down south!) who has long been seeking to leave the UK well behind and search out some warmth around the world!haha! Travel wise I started back in 2009 with the standard gap year in Australia on a working holiday visa – something that’s pretty common for backpackers from the UK. Following that – after a year long stint at STA Travel (a worldwide travel company who basically plan gap years for 18-25’s) my travel bug was in need of something a bit more hardcore and long term …so I hit the road in January and I’ve been around all over the place to be honest – Ecuador, Peru, The Galapagos, Thailand, Indo, Cambodia, Laos and I’m currently kicking back in Switzerland before spending the winter in Morocco….not a bad year hey?! Basically I decided the UK no longer had anything to offer me so I decided to bail and explore the world – both as a backpacker and as a surfer.
Where has being a surfing instructor taken you in the world?
Surf wise I’ve been enjoying the waves for just over 10 years now. Being from Devon in the south west of the UK the beach was always part of growing up as there’s so many amazing stretches of sand within an hours drive of my house. I stepped up the mark with my skills a bit during my time in Oz (i lived and worked in the surf mecca of Byron Bay on the east coast for 6months) and on my return to the UK I decided to finally get round to getting my International Surf Association Level One (the first level to be an instructor!) and Beach Lifeguard Qualification. It was the toughest but most enjoyable qualification I’ve got – my body ached, I was tired, but I had a smile on my face throughout the whole thing!
How do you get a job as a surfing instructor and how can you make money for traveling?
Getting into the industry part time is pretty easy actually. You have to complete 40hours on the job to solidify your ISA1 and a lot of places tend to take you on part time after that, but I did mine on the side of my full time job. Long term though it’s a bit more difficult, especially when it comes to adventure travel. It’s a very competitive market and a lot of people simply bounce season to season so it can be hard to get a foot in. So when i got offered a job in Montanita in Ecuador I didn’t think twice – quit my job, sold my stuff and flew 6 weeks later!
When it comes to money I won’t lie…you’re not doing it to make big bucks. In the UK you may make £30-£40 per day depending on where you work, but its also very seasonal. When it comes to working abroad most places tend to offer you free accommodation and meals alongside a small wage. For example in Ecuador it was $100 a month – which was enough to live on there. I do it to live abroad and surf heaps and enjoy life rather than slave away in an office. I’d happily take little pay over a shit job!
What is the lifestyle of a surfing instructor is really like?
The lifestyle is exactly how you perceive it! My job in Ecuador was working 12-5 teaching 2 lessons a day with backpackers. It was epic! I also lived in the hostel with everyone so it was a super social job. It had some great other perks like free Spanish lessons, a pool outside my front door, I got to tear along the beach in a 4×4 and run surf trips up the coast. Life was surf in the morning, coach in the afternoon, surf in the evening and then party hard all night! And yes it pimped my sex life out something mental – it keeps me in shape, keeps the tan topped up and spent all day helping people enjoy themselves in the surf…that’s pretty cool in anyones books!
Some parts of the job aren’t so enjoyable – like kit maintenance, early morning surf trips and loading the surf vans, but I get paid to travel, to surf….I’m not going to complain much about those things!
What advice would you give for someone who wants an adventure job as a surf instructor?
If you want to be a surf instructor I say go for it. But do it for a passion to surf, cos you won’t be doing it for the money! You can also do some zero to hero courses too which take you from learning to instructing, but the more in water experience you have the better it is.
It really helps to have something else to offer employers too, like photography or social media skills – it’s a tough market but if you want it you’ll get into it. If you score a good spot stick with it and most companies will give you an open ended job offer if you want to bounce back. My goal at the moment is to get 3 really good seasons sorted so I can simply bounce around all year and have an endless summer….fuck that would be awesome!