adventure sup imageAdventure SUP Instructor

I have been involved in coaching and leading groups in many activities for the past 17 years. I work at an adventure activity centre where I manage the day to day events and operation of the Centre. I am also responsible for looking for new and innovative activities that will capture the attention of our clients and give people the taste of adventure everyone looks for.

I came across SUP a good few years ago and always thought of it as a traditional surfing skill and never really understood the diversity of this great sport.When I realised the potential and range  of this activity and the fact I could transfer into the SUP instructor scheme using my BCU coaching awards I immediately found myself searching the internet for a course which could provide me with a transfer. This was my first encounter with WSA.

I contacted Ben at WSA to enquire about a transfer we were lucky to catch him at a quiet period and Ben offered to deliver a course on our lake at Parc Bryn Bach. The course duration was 1 day and included getting to grips with the fundamentals of SUP and understanding the links with canoe sport. After an interesting day exploring various teaching techniques, rescues and trying different stand up boards and equipment we successfully completed our transfer course and were ready to deliver this exciting new sport commercially at our centre.  WSA  provided all the support needed to buy the correct equipment and introduced us to some of the leading manufacturers in the sport.

During the transfer course Ben gave us all an exciting insight into the diversity of SUP and the qualification frame work needed to deliver this activity as a new strand to our business.  Immediately the ‘Adventure SUP Instructor course ’  stood out to us all and we instantly started getting out exploring in all environments to get the necessary experience to undertake the Adventure SUP Instructor Training.

The Adventure Instructor SUP course was again easy to book onto, with all course information provided well in advance and any questions or queries answered promptly. Our training course was in Pembroke just outside St David’s; the accommodation was warm and comfortable and directly overlooked the sea with a dramatic view out onto the ocean. The course was directed by Ben who was extremely thorough and his vast experience and enthusiasm for the sport shone through. We were extremely pleased to hear that the majority of the course would be practical and 80% would be delivered on the water, which was music to any outdoor instructor’s ears!!

The morning was spent with introductions from course members and staff, followed by an() introduction to adventure SUP, kit, equipment, environment, leader ship skills and techniques. We were soon heading to Solva and started the day in waters of the calm harbour evaluating individual performance and exploring a variety of leadership techniques suitable for the SUP Environment. We also looked at managing the adventurous surroundings while maximising the thrill that this environment brings.

We discussed effective briefings and practised beach landing and launch with everyone taking a turn at leading the group while enjoying the beautiful Pembroke coastline and sharing experiences all done in the WSA friendly productive and professional manner. The weather for the first day hadn’t been ideal with a 3-4 ft. swell running with a strong on shore wind, but with the excellent local knowledge of the WSA Team they had managed to pick a suitable location which fitted with the learning criteria for the day. We ended the first day with a series of rescues and a debrief back at the bunkhouse. During the debrief we were given the itinerary for the next day and there were plenty of text books on hand to expand our knowledge of the adventure SUP environment.

The evening was spent at a local pub which was a popular decision with everyone, relaxing with the team and talking about the highlights of the day. The balance of practical and theory, in my opinion, had been well judged which led to an extremely productive day leaving us all hungry for more on day 2. The second day started with a workshop on tides, tidal flows and emergency procedures followed by planning a route in groups of 2. For me this was extremely interesting and informative as my knowledge of tidal journey planning was limited. I was grouped with a day skipper who was extremely knowledgeable on this subject and gave me lots of help and advice as we planned our route. We then gave a short presentation of our route which was scrutinised by the WSA Team,  which promoted discussions between the groups, due to the varied range of experience and knowledge this prompted lots of discussion which benefited all parties.,

Once again the weather on day 2 wasn’t playing ball with strong winds and swell, however the in-depth knowledge of the area from the WSA Team proved invaluable once again with the staff choosing a location with conditions perfect for the criteria of the day, which was great leadership, using all aspects of the course we had studied over the past 2 days. The location didn’t disappoint we started in Fishguard Harbour and paddled out and around the coastline with dramatic scenery and an environment teaming with wildlife. We all took turns in leading and dealing with a number of scenarios set up by the staff to challenge our leadership skills. The day was extremely productive and provided us all with real taste of SUP Adventure.

The final day ended with a written test which was extremely detailed and ensured we recapped on all aspects of the adventure SUP instructor criteria. Following the training course a report was sent to us by Ben giving us feedback from the course on our performance and advising on a training plan that would take us to assessment. The next step for me and the staff was to get as much group experience as possible and get out in the adventure sup environment and experience a variety of venues in all weather, surf, and tidal conditions.

The next 6 months was spent exploring and having a series of adventures around the South Wales Gower coastline. Within the consolidation period WSA were on hand to offer any help and advice needed to reach assessment. I have since learned the ethos of the organisation is to share information and create a network which is proactive in offering advice whether professional or friendly on locations, conditions, equipment etc. The assessment process takes place over  1 day, delivering an adventure sup day in an appropriate environment for the ability of the client.

We had been delivering SUP courses and offering a day adventure sup tour on the final day so we had a client’s waiting to tour that we could use for the assessment.  As a registered WAS school we had followed the WSA personal proficiency award scheme which I find works really well and the clients seem to like the progression too. Our assessment took place at The Gower and we had planned a route from Caswell Bay to Pwll Du out and return, exploring the rugged coastline with some interesting zawns  to explore on route.

We met our clients at Parc Bryn Bach where we issued equipment and made our way to Caswell Bay were we met Ben for a 11 am start. As usual, any assessment process is a nervous affair but Ben has a very calm and cool demeanour which instantly puts you at ease and helps you perform to your full potential. I kicked the assessment off with a client brief on the beach; my ( colleague Craig then took over with a brief on beach entries while I moved passed the surf to gather the clients before moving towards Pwll Du. Ben kept his distance on the assessment and let us deliver the tour adding valuable input at appropriate times.

I led to Pwll Du beach stopping at various points on route to play and explore some of the zawns. On the turnaround Craig took over and we headed back to Caswell Bay. On route back we did some towing with the clients as we ( discussed tidal movement. The final task was for Craig to successfully land all 5 of us single handed,  which he did with ease and we ended the tour with 3 happy enthused clients after a 3 hour trip filled with fun and a bit of adventure thrown in for good measure.

It was then time for a coffee and debrief where we had the great news we had successfully passed the assessment, Ben gave us some meaningful feedback on our performance and looked over our paper work. The WSA SUP process has been an extremely enjoyable one with a series of professionally run courses delivered to suit the needs of the client to achieve the desired outcomes. The instructors are extremely knowledgeable and professional in delivery with all the enthusiasm required to inspire and promote a positive, friendly and productive learning environment.

I would highly recommend The Water Skills Academy SUP Instructor process as my experience has been second to none; the support we have received throughout the process has been superb. Our centre is now a Registered WSA school and we are already busy with Adventure SUP Bookings thanks to the WSA SUP Team.

Jon Kivell – Centre Manager PBB