By Carly Jones
Getting paid to guide people through epic coastal routes, coasteering is an outdoor adventure and the perfect job for nature lovers, getting to do all the fun things your parents warned you against when you were a child at the beach.
Most of us have been told off by our parents for playing near rocks, and for good reason, without knowing what you are doing the rocky foreshore can be a dangerous place, but when you have the proper knowledge and training it can also be safe and one of the most exhilarating experiences with ever-changing features and new discoveries.
This is where learning to become a qualified coasteer guide comes into play. When it comes to outdoor instructing, coasteering is one of the relatively newer members of the crew, due to rising popularity it has now garnered an advisory organisation – the National Coasteering Charter, whose directives are closely adhered to when training new instructors.
The actual act of coasteering (a combination of mountaineering and orienteering) has been around since humans gave into their natural sense of curiosity and utilised their ingenuity to access coves cut off from headlands, but it became a more structured outdoor activity in Wales in the 80’s and has since spawned a variety of trained coasteer companies offering the activity all over coastal UK.
An activity that combines climbing, swimming, jumping and exploring the local ecology, coasteering can be run in a multitude of ways and require varying skill levels and abilities. Coasteering is considered by many as a challenge by choice style of activity, never putting more pressure on the individual than they are comfortable with but also encouraging pushing their boundaries in a safe environment with qualified and dialed-in instructors.
So, what exactly goes into becoming a coasteering instructor?
To start off you must first become what is called an ‘Assist’. Due to the nature of this activity and the need for instructors to be fully aware of their surroundings, having site specific knowledge is crucial to providing a safe and well balanced activity. This is a little different to say, becoming a surf instructor where you can basically take the qualification anywhere. Once you have the relevant coasteer training you can take the knowledge and your new found abilities with you to new shores and be able to assess and plan out a suitable session.
Going through the process of becoming an assist is incorporated into the Newquay Activity Centre Outdoor Activity Instructor Course (OAIC). Throughout your training you will have the opportunity to enjoy guided coasteers with qualified instructors who go above and beyond to teach you the ins and outs of the area. During this time there will also be constant training on incident management and planning for a successful tour, including learning to read weather forecasts, tide timetables, swell and wind directions, seasonal changes to the site, history and marine ecology.
During your time you will perform at least 5 coasteer activity shadow sessions and a senior instructor will assess you when you feel ready to be signed off as an assistant guide. Your assessment will be a live coasteer with customers and you will be expected to have full knowledge of your routes, adaptations for conditions, safety procedures and, of course, excellent customer rapport. As an assist you will be qualified too, as the name suggests, assist a coasteering lead to take out tours and gain valuable experience and insight with real customers.
To become a lead coasteer guide the current requirement is to undergo a one-day training and assessment course with Newquay Activity Centre’s technical advisor. As a lead it is expected that you are an expert in water safety, group management and adaptive planning. There is a requirement to know all of the water depths, markers and remit requirements for key features on the coasteer routes and you will be expected to have completed at least 60 hours of coasteering per route, which can easily be gained within a few months of a busy summer season.
Newquay Activity Centre’s Outdoor Activity Instructor Course provides intensive training to get you signed off as an assist within 9 weeks. Along with a variety of other activities such as Surf Instructing, Surf Coach Safety and Rescue or National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification, Paddlesports Leader and further in-house qualifications. So you can be a multi-faceted instructor in under 3 months. Once completing this course you are able to assist on live coasteers and gain your assist hours which leads to a much quicker sign off towards becoming a lead. You’ll then command more money for your skills and potentially be prepared to open your own business in the future.
The final requirement to become qualified is to have an in-date qualification in either Surf Coach Safety and Rescue (SLSGB) or National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NVLBQ), as mentioned this is something that is already included in the Outdoor Activity Instructor Course so you will already be well on your way to completing your qualifications in a short period of time. Not all coasteering companies have this requirement but it is one of the most valuable qualifications you can have as an ocean based instructor and it is transferable to a multitude of other activities.
To really immerse yourself and be fully prepared as a Coasteering Instructor it is important to have your own kit. Having these items not only ensures that you know exactly what you are taking out with you and its condition (no one wants to find a knotted up throw line in the heat of the moment) but it also puts you in good stead with future employers. Turning up to jobs with proper training, qualifications and your own kit is essential, it is frowned upon in the industry for you to have to use centre equipment. There’s some must haves and some good to haves. But if buying everything at once is a little expensive you can slowly accrue items over the course of your training or on the job through your work as an assist.
- Wetsuit – For more obvious reasons (hello British climate) but also a requirement as the very nature of coasteering is traversing rocky outcrops and your wetsuit provides a layer of protection against any little cuts or nicks that could occur on route. It is also a good idea to wear a pair of shorts over the top to help prevent any tears on your expensive suit.
- Buoyancy Aid – The lifeblood of many a water sport, a good quality buoyancy aid is a must have on any coasteering expedition, we recommend getting one with pockets to hold onto all your other necessary bits. Newquay Activity Centre has great relationships with suppliers such as Nookie and Palm and can get discounts for those attending the Outfoor Activity Instructor Course.
- Helmet – Another necessity on most outdoor activities, protection is paramount to keeping yourself and your customers safe.
- Throw Line – A rescue aid that can be used to assist with helping people back onto the shore, again Nookie is a great brand for this and discounts can be available from NAC
- Tow Line – Similar to the above, this is often used if you need to assist a swimmer back in to shore.
- Dry Bag
- First Aid Kit
- Appropriate Footwear – you will need to wear trainers for this activity
- Waterproof Torch
- Mobile Phone
Types of Coasteers
Coasteering’s reputation is mostly focused on wild swimming, rock hopping and cliff jumping, but there are many more ways in which this activity can be enjoyed.
Eco Coasteering is a fantastic way to utilise low tides and really go into the wondrous detail on the marine environment while educating customers. One of Newquay Activity Centre’s foremost lead guides, Conor Kendrew, is also an ecologist and environmental educator who sees coasteering as one of the most powerful mediums for communicating the importance of the natural world. Conor advised “As guides we need to always ensure we are getting ourselves into the mindset of the client, this could be their first time in an environment like this so we need to have enthusiasm in every barnacle and mussel we come across. It’s our duty to speak out for the importance of the natural environment, it’s our living playground and we need to protect it”.
The marine environment in Cornwall, is abundant in wildlife, much of which is in need of protection. With 21 different species of sharks, a large proportion of globally rare grey seals who often pop up on Newquay’s Adventure Gully and Gazzle coasteering tours, endangered Kittiwake colonies, and a variety of limpets and barnacles, these Eco Coasteering tours really delve into the importance of conservation and are a great way to educate the public while providing an adventure they are sure to remember.
For history buffs, Heritage Coasteering immerses your customers in the rich history of the English coast. So many tales are held in the crags, caves and pools along the rocky shores, waiting to be revived by the storytellers among us. Perfect for those interested in maritime and cultural history, Newquay Activity Centre’s Heritage Coasteer is packed with musings of dramatic shipwrecks, tea-plundering pirates, superstitious rituals and local hero’s surfing monster waves off the fabled Cribbar Reef.
Night Coasteering was created for the super adventurous, armed with torches, glow sticks and fluorescent buoyancy aids, the darkness brings in a whole new level of adrenaline to the usual coasteer. You’re intensive knowledge of the route and your surroundings really comes into play in this guided tour. Your senses are enhanced and group safety is of the utmost importance, but thrilling traverses, and epic leaps of faith from the cliffs into moonlit waters is an epic experience. It will leave huge smiles plastered across your groups neon-lit faces.
Through the Outdoor Activity Instructor Course you will become qualified as a paddlesports instructor which allows you to lead Super SUP or Kayaking and Coasteer trips, excellent for groups who want to explore even further along the coastline. They get the opportunity to expand the variety of skills they can learn through a session and incorporating games into the mix.
For those wanting to move their new found skills outside of Newquay, and p
otentially a little further away from the coastline, Quarry Coasteering is another way to fulfil your adrenaline requirements. It’s a less oceanic environment where tide times don’t need to be taken into consideration. The skills that you develop during your training are transferable to some of these old mining sites. They can be combined with scenic hikes, zip lines or bungee jumping, just make sure to check in with the local council and National Coasteering Charter before jumping right in.
Along with the slew of activities and instructor options available through Newquay Activity Centre you can further your career path all over the UK and beyond. While coasteering has not yet gained global attention, it is practiced in several countries. With your intimate knowledge of forecasting and reading the terrain, coupled with research and tapping into local knowledge you can easily take the basics of this platform internationally if you wish to open your own business. The options are extensive and are only limited by your thirst for adventure.
If you are ready to change up your career into the great outdoors or expand the adventures that you are able to guide on the water. Check out our course dates below and secure your space. Before you know it you will be living a life many dream about and enjoying your office in the fresh ocean air.
If you have any questions or would like any further information (or just like what you have read) please leave a comment below or contact us for a chat.