Ben Longhurst – Director of Operations
Ben’s love of all things water started as a competitive swimmer, a junior member of county squads, soon moving into surf lifesaving, competing at regional and national levels, taking part in the World Championships in 1994. He has always loved surfing and has again competed at various levels on short and long boards. In the 80’s he became hooked on paddle sport and its various disciplines including white water, open canoe and sea. Whilst coaching paddle sport Ben led several kayaking expeditions to Nepal and Siberia and made a succesful crossing of the English Channel in a folding kayak. He has been involved in professional paddle sport coaching and development for over 20 years as well as being Chairman of his local surf lifesaving club. He holds a BA (hons) in Sport and Human Movement studies and various British Canoe Union coaching awards as well as qualifications in climbing, surfing and mountaineering. Stand Up Paddling was a natural progression for Ben joining 2 of his favourite sports. Ben is married to his long suffering and the most understanding wife in the world, having spent most of their marriage waiting for him to come out of the water! He currently works as senior assistant manager at Cardiff International White Water with a drive to develop Stand Up Paddleboarding.
Chris Rea – Director of Operations
Chris launched Harlyn Surf School in 1994 which has gone on to be a multi-activity ocean sports centre and has been a market leader for many years. Chris created the business template that many have gone on to replicate. The market is ever changing and Harlyn Surf School itself has to adapt its own business model to move with the times. Coasteering, Sit-on-top Kayaking and Stand Up Paddleboarding have become hugely popular and Chris’s operational experience and knowledge is invaluable in these areas. Chris is a SLSGB lifeguard trainer and has been providing watersports instructor and lifeguard training courses for 15 years in UK and Europe. He has trained over 800 individuals and many of them have gone on to set up their own schools and centres or work as professional beach lifeguards. Chris has over 35 years worldwide surfing experience and discovered SUP 7 years ago which led Chris to set up one of the first SUP schools in the UK.
Steve West – Senior Consultant to WSA
Steve West is acting Brand Ambassador and Consultant to Mistral Red Dot Division International. In addition, he is Senior Consultant to the Water Skills Academy Ltd and Managing Director of KANUculture Publications. Author of ‘Stand up Paddle – A Paddler’s Guide’, recognised as the ‘SUP Bible’ across the globe. He is a two-time outrigger canoeing World Champion (Molokai), past professional windsurfer and National Coaching Director (Australia) and Consultant to the Fijian South Pacific Games Race Squad for over seven years. Steve has been an ocean paddler for over 35 years and remains an active participant in both SUP and OC sports.
Matt Barker Smith
- Lives in Mumbles south Wales
- Current British SUP surf champion
Matt has a strong background in watersports, surfing was where it all started and kitesurfing followed in 2001. He turned his experience to paddleboarding 8 years ago and is very passionate about the sport . He has been to two stand up paddle surf world championships firstly as team manager and in 2014 as a competitor in Nicaragua he was ranked 16th in the world in the surfing element. Matt is always happy to provide knowledge on all aspects of SUP, including advanced SUP surf techniques. Matt runs a stand up paddle and kite surfing school and shop ‘The Sup Hut’, in Swansea, South Wales.
Nick Thorn Has been a trainer/assessor for over 20 years, from basic level 1 surf instructing to advanced coaching and Nick is also a lifeguard trainer assessor and has worked as a professional lifeguard for 15 years, here in the UK, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Europe and Caribbean. Nick has a very successful competitive background of 9 x British Surf Iron Man and 3 x European Champion and has spent plenty of time in the water coaching some of the best athlethes in swimming, surfing and lifesaving.
Sarah is the manager of Harlyn Surf School and brings a wealth of surf school operational experience to the WSA. Sarah is also a qualified personal trainer and has a passion for SUP and is a trainer for the WSA SUP Fitness programme. Sarah is also a probationary trainer for SLSGB lifesaving awards and was a competitive swimmer.
Hugh Murray is owner of Porthcawl Surf School, Wales’s Premier Surf School and training academy. Hugh has been involved in surf sport, education and surf lifesaving for over 37 years. Club Chairman of Sker and Pink Bay Surf lifesaving club for many years, he has competed at all levels including the World Championships and has held Welsh and British Titles. As owner of Porthcawl Surf School Hugh coaches on daily basis and is one of the only surf schools in the UK that operate year round. He is a leader in the development of young persons programmes including surf and lifesaving. He is an active trainer and examiner for SLS GB and Technical Chairman of Surf Life Saving Wales. He also sits on the working party for producing a UK National Beach Lifeguard Manual. In addition Hugh has developed a disability surf programme with trainer Dan Wilmore and again, leads the way in this field of empowering disabled persons to achieve through surfing. Last but not least he also produces the Porthcawl Tide Tables. Hugh’s passion and dedication to surf coaching rarely sees him out of the water and he is a well known figure in surfing in Wales Community and Great Britain Surf Lifesaving. Hugh brings an enormous depth of knowledge and experience to the WSA, its development and its courses.
Dan has been a passionate surfer for the last ten years. He recently discovered stand up paddle boarding in 2011 and has fully embraced the sport in all its aspects from surfing to adventure paddles, distance and racing. Recent achievements have been completing the SUP Challenge Wales event that he organized in 2013, which was a 43 mile paddle from Swansea to Cardiff to raise money for The Surf Experience. Dan is a qualified surf instructor and SUP coach as well as a fully qualified SLSGB lifeguard Dan specializes in working with differently abled children and young adults and has been involved in this area for almost ten years. For the last three years he has been running The Surf Experience, which is a surf and stand up paddleboard school catering for the differently abled.
Over 15 years teaching experience in the outdoors with a wide variety of client groups. This has been in a range of settings – commercial, residential, local authority, freelance – throughout England, Wales and now Scotland. A lifetime of enthusiasm for messing about in the water led to a career in inspiring others. Introduced SUP into current organisation in 2009. Paddled throughout the UK – inland, sea and river. Favourite paddle is a downwind run along the East Lothian coastline with the Bass Rock as a backdrop. As a fully registered, qualified and experienced teacher I delight in helping others to make SUP as accessible as possible. Transferable coaching skills come from coaching paddle sport as a sea, inland and canoe coach. No matter what the conditions or what piece of water just love to get out and paddle.
Owen has spent many years coaching paddle sports at the highest levels. He is a BCU National Trainer and a course director for many different awards. He has spent 25 years undertaking trips, expeditions and holidays in various different craft and has spent most of that time sharing his passion with anyone that will join in. Owen has a background in teaching geography and outdoor education in various settings from South Wales to Orkney. He holds mountain, rope access, water and underground qualifications and has been on cave and mountain rescue teams and is a member of his local lifeboat crew. He is a first aid trainer and holds advanced casualty management awards. He developed a love for the ocean when he moved to St.Davids in Pembrokeshire twenty something years ago and has surfed ever since. His ocean exploits have included extensive sea kayaking and a significant amount of diving. He started with SUP’s about 4 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. He now lives on the Isle of Wight with his wife and son who have decided to take up paddleboarding as well. Owen splits his professional time between working as an outdoor centre inspector, acting as a technical advisor and managing the marketing and development for UK Adventure Activities www.adventureactivitiesuk.com and a new venture in the states, www.adventureactivitiesusa.com
Dan is a young and enthusiastic entrepreneur who opened his first surf school in Northern Ireland at the age of 21. As a teenager Dan spent 4 years in Cornwall, where he learnt his trade at the Treviglas Surf Academy. Long Line Surf School has now expanded and can be found at Benone Beach and Portstewart Strand. As Stand Up Paddleboarding grew in popularity Dan seized the opportunity to open Long Line Water Trails in 2013 which is a SUP school operating in all waterways within the Binevenagh Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.Then most recently the creation of Giant Adventures which is a BIG SUP surf and flat water experience across the entire Causeway Coast in partnership with Simply Sea Kayaks. Although only being open for 4 years Long Line has received back to back awards for Best Coastal Experience in Northern Ireland for their surfing and a 4 star rating from Northern Ireland Tourist Board for customer service and quality of experience. Dan understands the importance of quality customer service and high standards of safety in order to create a successful businesses. The business ethos of Long Line is “Encourage a lifestyle… not just a sport” and so you will find Dan working on multiple projects with the community all year round. Dan runs two charity events a year including his Disability Surf Festival and Big Blue Softboard Contest all of which raises money and awareness for local charities. Also being the Northern Ireland Representative for Surfers Against Sewage he is busy organizing 8 beach cleans a year and numerous educational talks to school children about the beach environment and the importance of keeping it clean. Dan now lives at Benone Beach and works closely with other local businesses, National Trust and Causeway Coast and Glens District Council to provide experiential and responsible tourism which has been recognized by local and national authorities for outstanding work within the industry.
Joel has a strong background in teaching and education that started as a Secondary School Geography Teacher in Newcastle upon Tyne. Introduced to surfing as a young lad in the North Sea he’s remained a passionate and active surfer for over 25 years, twice becoming National Champion. He also spent more than 10 years teaching snowboarding, achieving the sought after ISIA award leading to a number of dedicated seasons in the French Alps. It was the content of the detailed snowboard courses that inspired him to bring some ’new’ ideas and practices back to the surf field and so ’Surf Solutions’ was set up. This now operates as a private advanced input surf coaching program dealing with a number of international competitors as well as 2 junior development squads. Joel’s coaching work has also lead him to being National head coach for Junior Teams 3 times. He is also involved at top level world surfing through his work as Team Manager for a multinational drinks company.
Stefanos Averkiou has been around water all of his life. Born near the sea, his love for the water and the fulfilment it entails has always guided and affected his choices. Competing from an early age in and out of the water he developed the persistence and stamina to pursue his goals no matter the level of difficulty. His love and attraction to the sea environment have led him to learn and practice several watersports such as windsurfing, kitesurfing and wakeboarding. In addition, he has been an instructor for several years and participated in a number of events both as a competitor and later on as a judge. Stand up paddle was added to the list as a means of rehabilitation after an injury. What seemed at the beginning a low intensity physio -workout, quickly became a daily quest. As the sport revealed its potential, the more devoted he became. Yoga entered his life when his wife attended some prenatal courses during her pregnancy and they both continued with partner courses after little Melina was born. Since then yoga has complemented every other activity. Paddleboardyoga and SUPinCrete were founded as soon as Stefanos and his family settled in Crete. The unique environment, the ideal conditions and the warmth of the people were a true inspiration. Alongside with his love for sports and water, he travelled extensively in both north and south hemisphere in search for the best conditions. These long journeys have only led him back to his roots, the beyond comparison beautiful island of Crete. Stefanos holds a bachelor degree in Computer Science and an MBA in Project Management. He has more than 14 years of experience in the IT sector and has worked for several large corporations. He has worked as a kite instructor for Global Kiter Foundation, a foundation dedicated to help differently able individuals.
Born into a life in the outdoors by age 11 I had climbed all the highest peaks in the uk, all of the Fells of the Lake District and Wales and most of the Munroes of scotland. I started kayaking when I was 7 and have since kayaked extensively throughout the UK and Europe. The combination of climbing, canyoning and kayaking lead me into working in water and developing skills in coasteering. Owner/manager of Vertical Descents Cornwall with extensive coasteering experience in UK, Portugal, Spain and France and helped to establish the National Coasteering Charter, being the first Regional Rep for Cornwall. I have been a surf coach for the past 14 years, kite surfing and teaching power kite sports for the same amount of time and started Paddleboarding 7 years ago. For the past 4 years i have been guiding Surf Rafts (white water rafts in the surf and along the coast) This is a fantastic activity and has now lead on to developing the “Monster SUP” as a commercial activity where we guide people on tours along the coast and guide them on waves as well.
Tim’s watersports career began with competitive freestyle kayaking in which he competed for Great Britain. Tim has over 20 years of paddling experience. He is a British Canoeing 5* Leader and is Rescue 3 trained. He has taken part in numerous whitewater expeditions and worked for several years in marketing for leading paddling manufacturer Palm Equipment. Tim discovered stand up paddleboarding in 2011 whist paddling in New Zealand, and in 2014 co-founded SUP Bristol, with partner Kate, to bring the outdoors into the city. His passion for sharing watersports with new people has lead him to become a leading provider of SUP coach education. SUP Bristol is a WSA Accredited Centre of Excellence and is AALS licensed.
Kate first tried her hand at SUP in the serene landscape of Nelson lakes, New Zealand. A few hikes and long distance bike rides later and she returned to the UK, convinced SUP was the perfect way to introduce more people to the water in Bristol’s beautiful harbour. Kate loves long distance open water swimming and last summer completed the Dart 10k swim. This year she has her sights on a similar feat in Lake Coniston. Kate has trained with the British Whitewater rafting team and enjoys being in, on or around water in a variety of boats and boards. Kate was the first female captain of her university canoe club and is the WSA’s first female coach educator. Trained and experienced in youth work, adult education and volunteer management, Kate is passionate about creating and facilitating accessible and enjoyable adventures and opportunities for others to develop.
Anthony’s passion for paddling began in the flatlands of Norfolk at the age of 8, but the white water was soon calling, and from an early age he became a youth freestyle kayak champion competing all over the UK and Europe. He soon progressed through the coaching ladder as he found a natural coaching flare. After kayak coaching for many years Ant achieved the highest coaching award, the Level 5. Ant and his wife Lianne now run Stand Up Paddle Board UK in North Wales and have been actively developing white water SUP for the past 6 years. Travelling the likes of North America, Slovenia, Norway and Austria, Anthony has become a white water Stand Up Paddleboarding pioneer, pushing the limits of SUPable drops across the world.mAnt will head up all WSA white water SUP courses and development ranging from personal performance, safety and coaching.
Nick has lived in the Algarve, Portugal since 2000. He is originally from South Africa having grown up in Cape Town surfing, windsurfing, hiking and generally loving the outdoors. After a stint as a river guide he journeyed up to the African bush proper and became a Game Ranger for two years, leading jeep safaris through the African bush to see lions, elephants, buffalo, rhino’s and leopards amongst other incredible animals.
Nick enjoys heading off on his paddle board on one night “micro-adventures” or proper week long trips, having recently paddled 160km across the entire Algarve Coastline. In 2016 he also led a team paddling 260km down the very depths of central Portugal and ending up in Lisbon.
Jules is an adventure paddler plus a full time coach and guide specializing in open canoe. He is a well established BCU Level 5 Canoe Coach, and a respected ‘White Water Safety and Rescue’ provider. As well as open canoe Jules is also qualified in both white water and sea and in more recent years he has been enjoying exploring the thrills and spills that the OC1 has to offer. He has a wide depth of experience to draw on from the ventures he has undertaken and trips he has lead around the world.
With the world of the single blade being his real passion, plus his enthusiasm for coaching and guiding this lead him to develop Voyageur Coaching. He prides himself on delivering high quality coaching, guiding and training to individuals and groups who want to develop personal skills, achieve awards or simply discover and experience the magic of paddling.
This has been furthered in his many solo expeditions where he relies upon these skills, and he is very enthusiastic to share his experiences and pass his knowledge on to others. He is also a regular contributor to the Canoe community with magazine articles, blogs and attends several events/symposiums throughout the year delivering various workshops.
He first discovered the SUP a number of years ago and right from the start it just made sense to him. He has explored lots of what SUP has to offer including surf, WW and expeditioning.
When Jules isn’t busy delivering coaching he particularly enjoys the challenges presented by solo expedition paddling and can often be found paddling in some remote location, with his trusted four legged companion Siuna!
I have been a Technical Advisor to the industry for over 18 years to centres, schools, organisations and expedition companies throughout the UK, Europe and as far afield as Asia and currently advise over 20 organisations encompassing activities across the adventure and education sphere. These include all Climbing and Mountaineering activity, all Kayak and Canoe activity and Combined Rock and Water based activities as well as Ropes Course and Climbing Wall activity.
I have been involved in the Physical Education, Outdoor Education and Adventure Industry for nearly 30 years, beginning with River Kayak and Surf Kayak and grew into Sea Kayaking as well. This was closely followed by Climbing and Mountaineering, Coasteering and Gorge Walking.
Throughout this time I have been a Teacher, Lecturer, Senior Instructor and Manager of centres as well as having my own company (AcwaTerra) running for over 20 years. I am the most qualified Kayak Coach in the British Canoeing system; holding the British Canoeing L5 in three disciplines of Kayak (White Water, Sea and Surf Kayak) and the highest assessor grades to accompany them (A5 in each). This is further reinforced in that i am a Coach Education Director, Advanced Safety Provider, Navigation Course Director, a National Trainer and Technical Panel Member. This has been reinforced with a water and safety training background in Surfing, Surf Life-saving and Sea and Surf Kayaking as well as Open Water Swimming and Triathlon.
I am also an MIC, IML and MT course director for ML (Summer), SPA, CWA, CWLA and have provided CPD workshops in the past for AMI members on the Art and Science of Coasteering and Technical Advice Provision. I have a number of other strings to my bow, including Triathlon Coach, Personal Trainer, previously Head Coach to the GB Women’s Rafting Team and Ski Instructor to name a few.
Personal time is spent either clinging to rock, with a paddle in my hand in a boat or on a board, with planks on my feet skiing and ski touring or flying helicopters, but most of all my time is enjoyably spent with my partner and daughter.