Water Sports Instructor Jobs – Teaching Windsurfing
Top instructor and freestyle windsurfer Clare Elliot shares her story of getting her first job in the water sports industry and what life is like on a season in Greece.
Why did you decide to become a water sports instructor?
I started windsurfing when I was 19 after completing my diploma in Outdoor Education. After that I went to Greece to do my first ever season as an kid’s activity assistant. On that first season, I discovered windsurfing and knew I wanted a water sports job. I was lucky enough to grow up in Devon, England, so the sea and the countryside have always been on my doorstep.
I have always loved the outdoors, especially the ocean, so I started swimming, surfing and sailing as a child but I never seemed to come across windsurfing. I have always been quite competitive, up for a challenge and trying new things, which is why when I saw others windsurfing in Greece, I was so eager to try it out, so I did!
After my first year ever of windsurfing, I thought I’d like to share my passion with others, which is why I chose to become a water sports instructor.
Where have you worked as a water sports instructor?
I have taught the majority of my windsurfing in Lefkada, Greece. Lefkada is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, it is connected to the mainland by a causeway.
There’s so many beautiful things about this Island, and one of them is a little bay called Vassiliki. Vassiliki (Vass for short) brings hundreds of windsurfers and holiday makers in the summer.
I work for Club Vass, a very popular and successful windsurf holiday company in the bay. I have worked there for 4 years now, and previous years for other companies along the beach. I have done some coaching in the UK before and am definitely planning on doing lots more for Club Vass and around the world!
The beauty of working as an instructor in Vassiliki is definitely the conditions. It starts with a light, onshore breeze in the mornings and by the afternoon, the katabatic winds soar down the mountain and creates a stronger cross shore breeze. The varied conditions make it perfect for all levels wanting to learn or improve their flat water windsurfing.
A typical day for an instructor would be teaching on the water for beginners in the mornings and intermediates and advanced in the afternoon.
What do you like about teaching windsurfing?
I LOVE teaching and sharing my windsurf passion with others. There is something very rewarding teaching windsurfing and I think that’s because it is such a challenging sport but once you get the hang of the basics, its very fun for everybody.
It’s great seeing my students fall in love with the sport just like I did. As an instructor, people are relying on you to help them achieve their goals, whether its standing on a board for the first time, or learning more advanced manoeuvres, what ever the case, its a great feeling when you succeed.
I love meeting people from all walks of life and different nationalities. People come from all over to windsurf in this little bay! I meet a lot of people who are like minded and enjoy the same things as me, which is why I get on so well with my students and colleagues. I keep in touch with lots of them. They often enjoy following my adventures and know they can contact me for any windsurf tips and tricks. It’s also nice for me to be updated on their own progress too, its great being told they remember my tuition, its a feeling of respect.
What is so special about Vassiliki?
Following from the epic conditions in Vassiliki, its also special because its surrounded by green mountains, blue sky and sunshine (almost all the time!).
I have always loved being in the sun, the sunshine and temperatures are important in Vass, as the winds are katabatic, meaning the wind relies on hot, sunny weather to actually work. The scenery is stunning, there are the most amazing beaches and history surrounding the mountain.
The local people are always friendly and there is a feeling of comfort whilst being here. Even though its such an amazing little island, it never feels too touristy, which keeps it unique. There is also something for everyone, mountain biking, paddle boarding, yoga, cafes and restaurants and sight seeing.
How does teaching windsurfing compared to a real job?
Compared to ‘real jobs’ being an instructor is way more fun! You get too combine your hobby and work and still get paid! I also think its a lot more rewarding than most jobs. It can certainly take you to exotic places outside the UK if you want to explore the world, and lastly, its so active!
So unlike sitting at a desk, or a kiosk or standing behind a bar, you are always on your feet, on the move, in and out the water, on your board, off your board, so you’ve got to enjoy keeping active and fit.
The social side of things is amazing, always surrounded by like minded, fun people.
What has becoming a windsurfing instructor allowed you to do?
Becoming a windsurf instructor has allowed me to travel all over the world. So far, windsurfing has taken me around the UK, Greece, South Africa, Canary Islands and Greece.
It has also allowed me to grow as a person, I have developed so many skills I thought id never have, especially people skills. It’s helped me to be more confident as a person, manage tricky situations, gain a huge amount of knowledge and has just allowed me to get on and enjoy my life. I’ve also taught loads of my own family who are now hooked, especially my mum and brother!
What has been the highlight of your windsurf career so far?
The highlight of my windsurfing career has got to be competing on the World Tour in Freestyle in 2016 in Fuerteventura. And if it wasn’t for Club Vass, I probably wouldn’t have done it. It was a great experience to compete against other women in windsurfing, and get to learn about how competition works. I was placed 7th, and won a few heats which I was really thrilled with.
Also landing my first push loop in Cape Town and…….. I’d be writing for days if I shared all my highlights so I’ll keep it snappy and move on.
What would you say to anyone thinking about starting a career in the water sports industry?
If you are thinking of working in water sports and have a passion for being on the water, just go for it!
You don’t have to be the best at your sport, you don’t have to a competitor, or have loads of money, you just have to have the passion to want to share with others, especially an instructing job.
Knowledge does help but remember you learn things every day and become more knowledgeable the more you do it. You also learn tonnes on windsurf instructor course and gaining qualifications is a must.
You’ve got to be active, however you don’t have to be an athlete but there’s no point coming into the outdoor industry if you don’t want to be on your feet, you’ve got to get use to long days on and off the water. Whether you embrace sunshine or prefer the colder climates, you can find water sports jobs all over the world.
Who has been your biggest role model?
I’ve had many role models along the way. Wherever you travel to windsurf, there are always others chasing the wind, waves and sun. The nice thing about windsurfing is people always help each other, even if its something small like borrowing a screwdriver or asking about the local conditions. I’ve learnt a lot from other windsurfers all over, so many people are always wanting to help out and give advice and tips.
My real support is my boyfriend Pip Pardoe who is also a windsurfer, in fact, a very good all round windsurfer and an inspiring coach! He’s helped me so much with my personal windsurfing and also coaching.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is travelling to other countries, meeting lots of people, continuing to further my knowledge and skills and constantly on the go having fun! There is such a big social scene in Vass, always fun to be had at the bars, especially after a windy day. There is live music once a week and Club Vass throw an epic fancy dress BBQ EVERY Friday! What’s not to love!?
What is the hardest thing about your job?
There are always going to be flaws in a job, although the perks definitely outweigh the tough moments. The hardest thing about my job is probably the time scale. Its a seasonal job, so its only from April to October.
We all live in such a bubble in Vass, and our team are close and we share so many fun times together, but its all over so quickly. So one minute you are employed and before you know it you are back to job hunting for the winter. However this can be easily solved, just continue chasing the sun, sea and wind, get all your mates together and go on a giant holiday in your ‘down’ time. Before you know it, you are teaching windsurfing again 😉
What is next for you?
I have just finished another epic, windy season in Vass, I’ve also just embraced the Autumn in the UK, windsurfing around Devon and Cornwall, competing in the UK British freestyle championships and the BWA Cornwall wave classic. I plan to continue my Open Uni degree in sport and coaching and think about booking a flight somewhere for February!
If Clare’s life as a windsurfing instructor sounds like something you want to do, become a windsurf instructor with us in Greece this summer!