Windsurfer Sam Ross talks about his journey from beginner to windsurf trainer, to RYA ODO.
Laurence West (LW) from the RYA’s Training Team caught up with RYA Windsurfing Trainer, Sam Ross (SR) to find out more about his windsurfing career; from getting started at 14 and developing his skills, to taking the first steps to becoming an instructor, his role as a trainer and find out about his most recent incarnation as an RYA OnBoard Development Officer (ODO).
LW – How old were you when you first started windsurfing?
SR – I was about 14. My dad taught me initially but I dropped the mast on his head and split it open. We then sought professional help.
LW – What inspired you to think about becoming an instructor?
SR – My first instructor was Rachel Medd, I was struggling but still having a great time. Her enthusiasm really rubbed off on me.
LW – What standard of sailor were you when you applied to do the RYA instructor course?
SR – I could blast in the straps on a pretty small board, but as I sailed in Poole harbour a lot, I couldn’t turn round that well.
LW – What advice would you give someone looking to become an instructor (what have been the enjoyable/difficult parts)?
SR – Do it ASAP! The course will help improve your personal sailing but mostly guides you towards helping others into the sport. The most enjoyable part for me is teaching different people, at different levels over the years and seeing them progress. The difficulty is deciding what’s next.
LW – Once you got your instructors ticket, where was your first instructor job?
SR – My first job as a windsurfing instructor was at FCWatersports in Poole Harbour.
LW – How easy was it to find a job?
SR – Initially, really easy. I asked my local windsurfing shop about instructing and they said yes. When I wanted to work overseas I applied to quite a few companies. My first interview was the one I really wanted, which was Neilson. I was very lucky to get the job as I was still at Uni and my dates weren’t that flexible.
LW – So during the winter months do you still teach windsurfing?
SR – I tend to work all year round teaching windsurfing overseas. When I’m in the UK the winter is one of my busiest times for windsurfing. I also teach stand up paddle boarding.
LW – What do you find most enjoyable about teaching?
SR – For me it’s seeing people come back and progress. It’s satisfying to take someone who has never tried or can’t do something and help them succeed.
LW – What are your three top tips for teaching windsurfing?
SR – Keep it simple, keep it fresh and learn something new.
LW – What then inspired you to think about becoming an RYA trainer?
SR – I’d been an instructor for seven years and I loved every instructor course I’d been on. At Neilson I had ran lot of staff training which drew on very different skills and I wanted to develop these as far as I could.
LW – So tell me about your first course as a trainer, training windsurfing instructors. How did it go?
SR – It was in Porto Heli Greece for Neilson. The first morning was 30 knots which made the candidates (and me) a little apprehensive. It was a full course but I had Laurence (West) there to help guide me through it. I loved it and I’ve had many people from that course return and do their intermediate and advanced tickets, which was great.
LW – I understand you are now also an RYA ODO (OnBoard Development Officer), what is this and how did you get into it? Do you still teach?
SR – As an RYA ODO (OnBoard Development Officer) I support the RYA’s OnBoard programme which gets young people into sailing and windsurfing. I look after East Dorset, so support local centres and clubs to get youngsters in and keep them coming back. With windsurfing, I still teach when I can. I work with the Watersports Academy in Poole which has fantastic staff, location and kit.
LW – Which part of your role gives you the most satisfaction?
SR – For me it’s seeing the kids convert from having a go at their taster sessions into becoming regular windsurfers. We recently held a series of festivals which became part of the Dorset School Games. It’s great to see so many kids competing at such a high level despite some of them only having been windsurfing just six to eight weeks.
LW – In your role as an ODO, if you had a magic wand (and money was no option!!), what 3 things would you like to be able to do?
SR – I would love to make Windsurfing part of the school curriculum in Poole. Many schools are involved already but it relies heavily on the teachers to drive it forward. I’d like to have a portable windsurfing pool. It would be great to take the sport into schools.
Finally I’d like to have windsurfing on local TV when events happen. Only a few people know they have one of the best places in the world to windsurf on their doorstep.
LW – Which of your many skills do you find you use the most in your ODO role?
SR – Sailing with a group is great, but a love of the sport is the best advantage. When convincing schools, teachers or kids to get involved, then enthusiasm is definitely by best tool.
LW – Do you still get time to get out windsurfing? If so, what would be your perfect day on the water?
SR – I sail as much in the UK now as I did overseas. Having worked overseas for so long and sailing in one spot all the time, it’s great in the UK to sail a couple of different places in the same day.
LW – What’s next for you in your career?
SR – I’m developing the coaching side more as well as working more closely with Tushingham and Starboard in the UK. I’m working as hard as I can on delivering more whether that’s through OnBoard, Instructor Courses, or coaching sessions.
LW – What advice would you have for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
SR – Once you get your first instructor ticket keep going, get your intermediate, advanced, but keep getting input. Share ideas with colleagues and keep trying different things.
LW – Is there someone that has inspired you, if so, who, why and what effect have they had on your career and decisions taken?
SR – Rachel Medd was an early inspiration for her enthusiasm and slightly off the wall delivery, which I inherited. I’ve had a huge amount of input and inspiration from all the managers and instructors I’ve worked with. There is no doubt that working for Neilson was a massive boost in everything I’ve done from being able to teach people week in week out to all the ideas that pinged around between instructors on beaches.
Read more about Sam at www.sam-ross.co.uk
If you’ve been inspired to become an RYA Windsurfing instructor, visit www.rya.org.uk/training to find out more.