One year ago, Lauran Dees, 20, took up her first full-time instructor job at Spray Watersports in Eastbourne. A year on she reveals the job has been even more rewarding than she imagined, and why she is relishing this season so much.
I grew up in Littlehampton in West Sussex as I keen kayaker and spent a lot of time at the Adur Outdoor Activities Centre.
But it was a couple of multi-activity summer camps I did at Calshot Activities Centre in Southampton, where I really tried windsurfing for the first time, that I decided I didn’t want to be a student anymore, I wanted watersports to be my job.
I saw that you got to work with such a diverse number of people, which really appealed to me, and that you got to work outdoors all day every day. I’m not very good at sitting around! I wanted to be hands on and to be the person who was helping people have as much fun as I did when I attended these camps.
In October 2012 I enrolled on a multi-activities instructor training course at UKSA in Cowes. This was six months and covered windsurfing, sailing and paddleboarding.
As part of the course we went to Egypt for a month and it was here I really developed my windsurfing. It was really good conditions, and I spent pretty much three weeks on the water every day, part training and part free sailing. In that time I really got myself up to speed and came back as an intermediate level windsurfer.
Although the conditions were a bit different on the Isle of Wight, the variety in sea states gave me a chance to develop my wave sailing skills too.
The RYA Start Windsurf Instructor course was the last one we did, so we used it as a chance to translate some of the stuff from our dinghy and paddleboard courses into a windsurfing environment. Because we were teaching each other a lot, I learned so much about the way people learn though that windsurf instructor course.
The main thing I learned was that visual stuff is best and how important it is to put exaggeration into all the moves you demonstrate. If people can’t hear or see what you’re saying it isn’t the end of the world. But if they can’t see how a move should look they will struggle. People are far more likely to learn through seeing and doing.
The first one
I started working at Spray in early May and admit I was pretty scared. The centre was great in easing me into the way things worked by giving me a relaxed multi-activity fun week to work on first. It was a lot of younger kids and there were no certificates.
Of course I wanted to teach them properly, but there wasn’t the pressure of knowing you had to get people up to a certain standard by the end of the day.
My biggest worries about teaching Start Windsurfing were;
• Are the students having fun?
• Are they bored?
• Am I teaching them in the way they can best learn?
I didn’t need to worry so much. The first weekend adult Start Windsurf course I did was just one couple and they were dream students! They were fun, really easy to get along with and, most importantly, they fully engaged in the sessions and asked loads of questions. As an instructor you want people to ask questions otherwise you stand there wondering if they understand or what they are thinking. That can be hard.
I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed delivering that first course. I felt it was well structured and was pleased at how naturally it all came. That was a reflection of the way I was taught. You can always do things better, but when you get positive feedback it makes you even more determined to get better and improve.
It was a massive confidence boost that stood me in good stead for the season.
During the busiest summer months we would typically have one of our kid’s multi-activity fun mornings or deliver a Stage 1 or Stage 2 kids’ windsurfing course before lunch, followed by maybe a few hours of an adult course or activity for a local community group. In the evenings we might do a Sportivate session delivering Start Windsurfing certificates for a local Scout or Cub group for example, or one-to-ones.
The days can be long, you would start at 9.30am and maybe finish at 8.30pm, but you don’t really think about it, especially when the weather is like it was last summer!
I got involved in the Spray Sprites Team15 sessions too, although there are a couple of race coaches at the centre who primarily led on these. I definitely want to get more involved in race coaching this year, and will have the perfect chance as Spray is hosting all the South East Team15 events this year.
My biggest aim is to definitely get my RYA Intermediate Windsurf Instructor qualification by the end of the season.
Working with a diverse range of people was one of the main reasons I wanted to become a watersports instructor.
I really got that opportunity in my first summer, including being part of one-to-one sessions and doing safety, with a guy who, after losing his leg in an accident, wanted to learn to windsurf. He wears a prosthesis and it has been absolutely incredible seeing him learn and progress.
He has been so up for it, so determined and his perseverance is amazing. He is working on his intermediate certificate now, and comes down and planes along. Windsurfing is his thing that he does now.
The sense of satisfaction when you work with people like that is incredible. I’m so excited about who I may teach to windsurf this summer. You just never know and that is what makes the job so rewarding and interesting.
Want to find out more about becoming an RYA Windsurfing Instructor? Visit http://www.rya.org.uk/coursestraining/coachestrainersinstructors/instructors/Pages/windsurfinginstructors.aspx
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