Ian Smith of SurfSUP Adventures

Ian Smith of SurfSUP Adventures

Being a great and successful SUP instructor isn't just about fancy tricks on the water and winning races. You should have great people, business and safety skills to round off your expertise in any region or market.

Here's a few programs to help boost your overall professional skills. PSUPA members have access to even more lists of programs for all aspects of running a SUP Business in our online Member Resource page.

Build your First Aid / CPR Skills - 

Wilderness First Aid - This is an essential course even if you're not in the wilderness. And some courses can be customized to your needs (more water time) if your company hosts the trainers. My business did a join WFA course with a kayak shop a few years ago with Remote Medical that included on-water training.

WFA comes in a variety of course types and durations. I recommend the WFR course which is a week long. I found the 2 days course to be too much info on too short of time.

Also consider Lifeguard Training for both pool and surf.

Find courses through: REI / NOLS, Wilderness Medical Associates, Red Cross and the Scouting USA

Build your Interpretation Skills - 

The National Association of Interpretation (NAI) trains Interpreters to connect visitors to important natural, cultural, and historical resources at parks, nature centers, historical sites, aquariums, zoos, and anywhere that people come to learn about places. NAI defines interpretation as "a mission-based communication process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the interests of the audience and the meanings inherent in the resource. Learn More


Become a Better Outdoor Guide

Become a Better Guide Project - This is an amazing resource of online courses and videos for become a better guide. I post owner Kelsey Tonner's articles frequently on the PSUPA member FB page. Learn More  https://www.beabetterguide.com/

SKILLS is a sea kayaking (keep reading..) guide skills and leadership training program. Courses include everything from marine navigation and weather to PR skills with clients, back country cooking, rescue and safety, group management and risk management. Even if you're not a kayaker, you should consider this program if you plan on running full day and overnight tours and trips.  Read More  https://skils.ca/

Get Certified with Every SUP Certification!

Each SUP certification offers slightly to completely different programs to train instructors. You shouldn't limit yourself to one program.  ACA, ASI, PaddleFit, Paddle into Fitness and Paddle Canada all have good info to help you become a better instructor. And the more certs the merrier your resume looks.

If you have kayak skills, also consider BCU (British Canoe Union) and the above mentioned SKILLS program in Canada.

Education Based Outdoor Associations - 

Each of these run regular outdoor education seminars, classes and conferences..

AORE - Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education

American Outdoor Association - They run a big conference in the winter each year with tons of great outdoor business and guiding seminars.  I took one in Salt Lake a few years back on 'How to not get sued.'

Outdoors Safety Institute - Specializes in training outdoor businesses about Risk Management.

NOLS Risk Management Training - 2 day traveling course.

Swiftwater Training - 

Swiftwater Training should be required for anyone learning to or planning to run courses on even the most mellow rivers and/or tidal current locations.

NRS has compiled a great list of Swiftwater Training programs in the US and Canada.  View Here

Improve your Business and Marketing Skills - 

Digital marketing skills are required in modern day business from posting  to social media channels to writing blog posts, posting on YouTube, paying for online ads, or posting upcoming events and classes/tours.  You can pay someone to do it for you, or without much effort and minimal cost you can learn how to set up successful SEO and professional social media campaigns for you business.

Courses to look into:

  • Writing for Social Media
  • Optimizing your website with SEO
  • Improve your Photography Skills - Read my blog post on Pro Photo Skills for Paddling Businesses
  • Digital Marketing - In-person classes can be a half day, full day or even as a certificate program.
  • Check out online education for business and marketing at Creative Live, LinkedIn and Udemy.

Hire a Business Coach or Consultant - 

While this may not sound like education, but their expertise will not only help your business but also educate you on how to be smarter in business.  You'll be surprised what you're missing in your business thanks to a perspective of a business professional not in your field.

The PSUPA member resources has a list of approved business consultants our members have worked with.

Cross Train and Learn a New Paddling Skill -

Are you a master of SUP or kayaking?  Great! Now go learn how to master another water sport or related activity.  After years as a sea and surf kayaker and kayak guide, when SUP came along I jumped on the bandwagon. In learning SUP, I realized both kayaking and SUP benefited each other. My stroke and directional control as well as my surfing improved for each discipline.  Friends in the SUP business are now trying out outrigger canoe, surf ski, prone paddling and prone surfing and finding the same results.  Some have even added the new discipline to their businesses.

About the Author, Rob Casey: Originally a commercial photographer for 20 years, during the great recession, I saw the SUP industry growing nationwide but not in my area - so I started Salmon Bay Paddle to provide small group SUP lessons and tours. In 2013, I co-founded and am the director of the Professional Stand Up Paddle Association to provide the SUP industry with a better instructor training and certification program. I also provide paddling business consulting and marketing services. I'm based in Seattle, WA / rob@psupa.com