How to Work and Travel as a: Surf Instructor
An Interview with Chris Stevens from Backpacker Banter
So, you want to travel forever and make money on the road? There are loads of ways you can travel for free and even make money while traveling and I’m talking to people who are doing just that! Maybe they can inspire you to also make your dreams of a life of travel a reality?
Chris Stevens from the UK has worked as a surf instructor all over the world. Chris is a surfer by nature, a photographer by trade and a traveller by choice. He is 27 years old and from Devon in the UK, although his passion for surfing has taken him all over the world. As well as working as a surf instructor he also blogs about his adventures at BackpackerBanter.com and runs online travel agency EpicGapYear.com
Wow Chris, sounds like you are living the dream! What made you want to be a surf instructor and how did you make it happen?
Well, having surfed since I was 15 I’ve always looked for any excuse to be by the beach and to enjoy the waves, so becoming a surf instructor seemed like the ideal way to do that! After a year in Australia my level of surfing had progressed heaps so I knew I had the wave riding skills to coach and whilst I was back in the UK I smashed out my ISA Level 1 exam and my Beach Lifeguard qualification…then I was all set to go! After working part time for a summer in Devon (I juggled it with my other job) I scored a contract out in Ecuador for a season – I quit my job, bought a ticket and flew out 4 weeks later…that was 4 years ago now!
Sounds Awesome! What do you like the best about life as a surf instructor?
It’s just a pretty cool job to be honest and being a surf instructor has allowed me to work all over the world – from Ecuador to Morocco. You get to meet people from all over the globe too and I love meeting fellow travellers. When I was single it was pretty helpful too 😉 hahaha!
But nothings perfect right? What irritates you the most?
When the surf is pumping and you’re coaching beginners. Nothing worse than standing on the shoreline when you want to be out back riding the waves!
Do you have one standout highlight of your time as a surfing instructor?
It’s all good really! Being able to spend 3 months in Montanita, Ecuador is incredible – I’ve done a couple seasons out there now and it’s a place that I’m always keen to return too – I’ve got so many awesome Ecuadorian friends out there now and have met heaps of surf buddies who I cross paths with on my travels.
And what has been the greatest challenge?
Probably making money and getting started! Once you’re in the industry it’s simple and you get a good network of contacts very quickly, but securing a good first season can be tough. Money wise most jobs are on local pay – so in places like Morocco it was hard to save – I made enough to get to the next season, but I did have all my food and accommodation included so I didn’t spend anything either! It’s a tough juggle sometime – Europe is the place to be if you need to actually save some serious dollar!
What do you wish you had known before becoming a surf instructor?
How much fun it was and how much you can travel with it – I probably would’ve done the course way earlier!
What do you miss the most about home and do you have any tips for dealing with homesickness?
The thing I miss most is actually surfing with my buddies at my local surf spot in north Devon. I’m stoked that they tend to fly out and visit me on my travels though but nothing beats a good session among friendly faces! Home sickness wise I don’t really get homesick – I’m too busy having an epic time!
What about the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Geez I have no idea! I’d love to open a surf camp or hostel someday, but I’m taking it as it comes!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what tips would you give for people wanting to follow in your footsteps and become a surf instructor?
Do it! smash out the courses and get on the job hunt – just have a good backup bank balance in case you spend a season where you can’t save and need to buy some more flights! Get networking too, some of the best jobs I’ve had are because a friend has recommended me or knows of a place hiring – so chat to EVERYONE!
We actually sell some great zero – hero surf instructor courses on Epic Gap Year, including South Africa, Morocco and Australia, so even if you haven’t surfed much you can train for 3 months, explore some amazing places and walk away with a coaching qualification…so there’s no excuse!
Thanks Chris for being so inspirational and keep having a great time!
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