Outdoor Instructor Qualifications Explained

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If you’re thinking about booking onto one of our outdoor activities and would like to know more about the safety qualifications our instructors hold, you’re in the right place.

Here at Newquay Activity Centre we’re not just about delivering outdoor activity experiences.

We get that you want peace of mind and to know that you are in safe hands.

It can be a little confusing when you’re trying to decipher all of the different outdoor qualifications and what they actually mean for you.  The good news is that we have over 20 years of experience in this area so we are here to help.

We’ve created this simple guide to demystify our outdoor instructor qualifications, explaining the (many) abbreviations and what’s involved in qualifying for each (spoiler – we go above and beyond when it comes to training).  We’ve included Life Saving, Surf Instructing, Kayak & Paddleboard Instructing, Coasteer Guiding, In House Qualifications

We’ve also covered why we’ve chosen these particular governing bodies to ensure the best safety standards for our activities. as well as a few other helpful bits of info to demonstrate that we put safety first, so you can have the confidence to book your adventure, get out there and have fun!

LIFE SAVING (all outdoor activities)

Surf Coach Safety (SCS) or National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NVBLQ)

Every instructor that works with us holds these beach life saving qualifications to ensure the utmost safety for all of our activities. The training is rigorous so we’re confident in our instructors’ ability to handle any situation.

The qualifications: Surf Coach Safety (SCS) as a minimum; or National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NVBLQ) for coaching surfing or bodyboarding out back (beyond chest-depth water).

What it allows our instructors to do: Gain the right beach safety and rescue skills to undertake training for any of our outdoor qualifications. 

Why we use these ones: Both the SCS and NVBLQ qualification are awarded by Surf Life Saving Great Britain (SLSGB) who are a trusted, surf-focused organisation with a huge emphasis on preventative methods. They’re the gold standard of safety, as far as we’re concerned!

The training: These qualifications are included as part of our 13-week Outdoor Activity Instructor Course or our 3-week Intensive Surf Instructor Course. They involve:

  • 25-40 hours of surf life saving training with an SLSGB Trainer Assessor 
  • First aid training
  • An assessment, fitness test and timed swim – 200 metres in under 5 minutes for the SCS or 400m in under 8 minutes for the NVBLQ.


What makes Newquay Activity Centre instructors stand out: We add an additional 2 days of scenario-based training for SCS candidates on our courses to ensure exceptionally high standards. We also offer regular CPD (Continued Professional Development) sessions to our staff to keep everyone up to date with life support and first aid skills.

Trainer Assessor Freddie, says: “I started out with my Beach Lifeguard qual when I became a Surf Coach, it gave me a load of confidence as a coach knowing that I had some great training  to keep guests safe. Since then I’ve become a Trainer Assessor for SLSGB, so now I train the lifeguards. The SLSGB is a great organisation to be involved in with really high standards particularly for safety. That gives me the confidence to know that the instructors  and Lifeguards that I’m signing-off are of a really high standard”

Lifesaving Qualifications


ISA Surf Coach Level 1

The qualification: ISA Surf Coach Level 1

What it allows our instructors to do: Surf coaching in the UK or overseas.

Why we use this one: The governing body International Surfing Association is long-established and recognised all over the world. It just makes sense.

The training: The qualification is included as part of our 3-week Intensive Surf Instructor Course or our 13-week Outdoor Activity Instructor Course. It involves: 

  • 2 days training, online or in-person
  • Coursework and a surf ability assessment
  • A minimum of 20 hours shadowing a qualified instructor

What makes Newquay Activity Centre instructors stand out: Our trainers include Women + Waves coaches and 3 x European Champion Pro Surfer & Coach, Alan Stokes. In our Intensive Surf Instructor Course, we don’t just help our instructors to qualify and improve their surf ability – we cover all sorts to get them ready for coaching, delivering lessons and excelling in the industry, including surf skating, inclusive surfing, wave pool surfing and more.

What this qualification could lead to: As our instructors develop and hone their coaching skills, there are opportunities for additional training and qualifications like ISA Level 2 and Adaptive Surfing.

Surf Instructor & Pro Surfer Alan Stokes says: “This qualification has allowed me to make my passion my career, it’s taken me beyond pro surfing. I’ve been coaching for 10 years now and it’s really nice to pass on my surfing experience to surfers of all abilities under the well-recognised  ISA organisation.”

ISA Trainer/Assessor Baz Hall says: “I’ve been involved in the ISA for many years it’s a great organisation to be a part of. I’m proud to deliver their courses and know that the students that come through the courses become strong surf coaches and can work internationally with this qualification.”

If you’d like to find out more about becoming a Surf Instructor, read our guide here.


Paddlesports Leader Award (PSLD)

The qualification: Paddlesports Leader Award

What it allows our instructors to do: Lead group trips in the UK or overseas for three types of paddle craft (kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard) in sheltered water, up to 200 metres from an exit point.

Why we use this one: The governing body British Canoeing is internationally recognised and long-established in the industry. We’re proud to be a British Canoeing Delivery Partner too.

The training: This qualification is included in our 8-day Paddlesports Leader Development Course and involves:

  • A 1 day assessment in a group leadership scenario with a British Canoeing Assessor
  • Instructors must have a safeguarding certificate and some relevant first aid qualifications to take part – though all of our Paddlesports Instructors are trained in Life Saving so have those as standard (plus a lot more!)

What makes Newquay Activity Centre instructors stand out: We push our instructors with additional training on our Paddlesports Leader Development Course to ensure they’re capable of handling situations and weather far beyond that of a typical lesson.

What this qualification could lead to: Experienced instructors can do an additional assessment (with an external assessor) to be able to run kayak sessions in the Gazzel, taking customers rockhopping and through sluices. It’s a lot of fun and many of our instructors decide to go for it. There are also opportunities for more advanced paddlesports qualifications through British Canoeing, like the Sea Kayak Leader Award.

Paddlesports Leader and OAIA Graduate Sean says: “My paddlesports Leader qual has been a great launching point for my work as an outdoor activity instructor. It has allowed me to work year round in Newquay and deliver some epic paddlesports activities. Now I’m training for my Sea Kayak leader assessment so I can really add value to the kayaking sessions and take guest on longer adventures.”

If you’d like to find out more about becoming a Paddlesports Instructor, read our guide here.

Paddlesports Leader Award


Coasteer Lead Guide or Coasteer Assist Guide

The qualification: Coasteering Guide. We offer ‘Lead Guide’ or ‘Assist Guide’ qualifications, depending on experience and the level of training.

What it allows our instructors to do: Guide or assist groups in coasteering sessions in the UK.

Why we use this one: The regulatory body National Coasteering Charter (NCC) is knowledgeable and passionate about promoting safety, first and foremost – and is recognised by the likes of Adventure Activities Licencing Authority (AALA) and Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). We are members of the NCC and all of our Lead Guides are members as individuals too.

The training: The Coasteering Assist Guide qualification is included in our 8-day Coasteer Guide Training Course and involves:

A half day assessment guiding a group through a coastal environment, run by an internal assessor 

  • 40 hours of training in line with NCC guidance and training syllabus

What makes Newquay Activity Centre instructors stand out: Coasteering is an exhilarating experience – but it also comes with a little more risk than some of our other activities. For that reason we always make sure our Assist Guides have had months of coasteering and instructing experience before being put forward for a Lead Guide assessment. We continue to offer lots of in-house training too, encouraging our guides to be a part of the NCC and attending their training events too.

What this qualification could lead to: Becoming a Lead Coasteering Guide (external assessment on ability to manage a group, provide a great experience and make the right decisions if something goes wrong).

Coasteering Guide & Trainer Jacob, says: “Working in the ever changing coastal environment is demanding. We train hard to be ready for all weather and surf conditions. Keeping our clients safe while at the same time having the skills to explore and deliver a really fun experience”

If you’d like to find out more about becoming a Coasteering Guide, read our advice here.


Our Additional In House Training Courses

We offer several other activities at Newquay Activity Centre including bodyboarding, super SUP, beach games, bushcraft and snorkelling. 

These activities don’t have governing bodies like the qualifications above, but we’ve used our training and assessing experience to develop in-house methods our 13-week Outdoor Activity Instructor Course, with equally high standards of training, safety and assessment from our own instructors and technical advisors (and they’re the best in the business!).

Our bodyboarding qualification, in particular, has been developed in collaboration with Bodyboard Holidays and SLSGB trainer assessors to include bodyboard specific surf safety and rescue.

You can find out more about our Outdoor Activity Instructor Course here.

Bodyboarding Qualifications


By now we hope you’re feeling as confident that our activities meet the best safety standards as we are. But to recap, here’s how we’re putting safety first:

  • We don’t just deliver outdoor activities, we train the instructors too
  • We use the best governing bodies to assess and award qualifications 
  • We offer courses that go above and beyond, preparing instructors to be able to handle all scenarios and thrive in the industry!


Still got questions about any of our outdoor activities qualifications or safety measures? Just give us a shout on +44(0) 1637 879571 or jump on our online chat and one of our team would be happy to help you out.


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