Surf instructor

Why Become a Surf Instructor?What is it all about?

Chris Bond

7 years ago in LIFE

What is it all about?

Yes, this definitely sounds like the dream job, right? But there’s a little more to it than just going surfing every day, and it’s not for everyone. Having said that, its gotta be one of the best jobs in the world!

Working as a surf instructor, is as much a lifestyle as it is a career choice. You may not have the latest car and biggest house, but you’re spending your time in the best office of them all, at the beach.

So if you love surfing and love being at the beach and it makes you happy every day, then becoming an instructor is the way forward!


That’s me, teaching the ISA Level 1 instructor course for Surfing South Africa

The office

Look, it’s not all peaches and cream, sometimes it’s onshore and sometimes it’s cold (depending on where you are working), but with twelve years of surf coaching under my belt I can tell you one thing, when you’re out there and you are imagining sitting at a desk for your 9 hours a day, it’s a really good motivation to appreciate what you’ve got.

Surf coaching is all about people, the ones you work for, with and the people you are teaching. You get to meet and interact with people from all walks of life, different nationalities and ages, and get to share with them your office; the beach and the ocean.

The friendships you make with other coaches will last you for life, and often they become your travel buddies. Surf coaching is usually seasonal, which means taking time off the travel and surf in between jobs, as well as travelling for work in different countries. Oh, and getting cold, wet and sandy is definitely a part of the job, enjoy it.


Surf coach, surf trip designer, writer, former surf school owner, marketing man and much more, Max getting sandy coaching in Indonesia!

What qualifications are available?

The first thing you may want to know is how good do you have to be to be a surf instructor? That answer is here! There a few things you need to know for your instructor course, first of all being that in some countries this is an area that is not regulated, but if something goes wrong you won’t have a leg to stand on so it’s really not worth holding back on it! To be qualified you need to hold both an acceptable lifeguard certificate as well as instructor certificate in order to be able to coach. Now, there are a few different instructor qualifications you can do, the most popularĀ one internationally at the moment is the International Surfing Association (ISA) Level 1 instructor course. Another internationally recognised one is the Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI) level 1-4 courses. They are both essentially similar courses, with the ISA being the better known course and more widely accepted, although the ASI courses do run in most parts of the world. There are other courses as well which may only be acceptable in that country.

ISA course Durban

Me again, teaching the in-class theory of the ISA Level 1 instructor course for Surfing South Africa.

With Lifeguard courses it is a bit more open, as these run in most parts of the world. Because you are not working as a lifeguard, there are even surf specific Lifeguard courses in some countries, like this one in South Africa. The ISA allows a broad range of lifesaving qualifications, as they all cover the same basic requirements.


Learning how to do rescues on the rescue boards in Durban as a part of the lifeguard course.

Working as a surf instructor

Well one way to talk about this is simply to share my journey. Having started surfing at a young age, it was my thing. After school I did a bit of coaching with other jobs to help earn some money to get myself off on my Gap Year. Having earned enough for the flight I set off to Australia for a few months before going over to the UK aiming for the small town of Newquay where a friend had worked as a surf instructor two years prior. This is where I first did my qualifications and it totally changed my view of surf coaching. Being a surf instructor no longer meant just pushing people into waves, it meant giving them much more information to achieve higher levels of success, especially with groups, and a greater understanding of safety and the risks involved with surfing. That summer in 2005 I did countless beginner surf lessons and absolutely loved it. Living and working on the beach in the Newquay summer really was the dream job! The people I worked with as well as the people I met made it what it was, oh and I made and saved some money too!

That was my realisation that being a surf instructor could actually be a real job, and it wasn’t just for drop-outs either! It was a choice for the people I met who were working there, some who had worked 6 or more years in a row doing it, then they’d head off to Indonesia or Mexico for months after the season was done. Maybe do a few odd jobs then back at it the following season, if you had to measure quality of life, theirs was right up there! I chose a different route and after my amazing summer coaching I went to University, but with a real passion for surf coaching that I couldn’t get enough of. Weekends became my surf coaching days, the money wasn’t as good in South Africa as in the UK, but as a student it helped put petrol in my car and a beer in the evening!

Fast forward a year and this company came along who had the most incredible trip they were planning to run from Cape Town to Durban. UK-based they had done the trip themselves, loved it, and decided to offer it to other people. And so, while still at University, I started running trips for Ticket to Ride during my vacations. The role of beginner surf coach had changed slightly to include tour guide. Parallel to this, I had started doing more and more of the advanced coaching at the Roxy surf school and slowly started taking on my own clients who wanted coaching at other surf spots. From this it evolved into performance surf coaching etc, but for other friends I met it lead to starting surf schools, surf travel companies, tour companies and many more.

What I am getting at is that there a lot of different avenues it may take you down. If you enjoy it, it will work for you and you’ll have one hell of a ride!


And it can be a whole lot of fun! New friends, sunshine, sea and happy customers!


You can also watch the video to see more!