How to Become a Surf Instructor | Turn Your Passion Into a Career

Becoming a surf instructor is a great choice if you want to turn your surfing passion into a professional career. This job will allow you to earn, while at the same time giving you the chance to travel to the best surfing locations in the world. 

Teaching surfing means living in surf towns where you’ll get to meet and interact with different kinds of people who share the same stoke. It’s about being an inspiration to groms and beginner riders and loving to see how they develop and improve their skills.

Are you up for this job? In this post, you’ll learn the basic requirements and qualifications of becoming a surf instructor. We’ll also share with you some tips when applying and the basic skills surf schools look for in their applicants. 

What is a surf instructor?

The primary role of a surf instructor is to introduce surfing to people who want to learn this water sport. Surf instructors must also be able to create a fun and engaging environment for their students. 

Good surf instructors or coaches allow their students to expand their limits safely by monitoring them constantly and assisting in their surfing lessons. They should possess the basic skills needed for first-aids such as CPR in case of any unfortunate events like drowning.

Surf Instructor’s Salary

According to Glassdoor, the annual salary of a surf instructor in the United States is USD 58,036. However, this varies depending on the experience, the location, and the employer. In other parts of the world, specifically the ones in Southeast Asia, surf instructors are paid around USD 150 a month, including free food and accommodations. 

If you’re looking for a higher wage, then you’ll need to apply somewhere in Australia, Europe, or America. But if you’re in it for fun and adventure, then go for the vibing exotic and tropical surf towns

How to Become a Surf Instructor 

Becoming a surf instructor is a dream job for a lot of people; however, not everyone can be one. It’s a lifestyle career choice wherein employments are seasonal, and you’ll have to travel to places that are often unfamiliar.

Dedication to teaching is important, but surf instructors should also be able to endure this job’s physical demands. Like being under the sun’s heat or wearing a wetsuit that’s soaked in wettie warmer all day when the lesson’s pumping. 

If you’re physically and mentally ready to take on this career, then take a look at the following requirements and qualifications of being a surf instructor. 

Skill level assessment

The question most people ask about surf instructor applications is — how well do you have to be at surfing before you can actually become an instructor? First, you should know that there are different levels of being a surf instructor. 

Level 1 surf instructors don’t have to shred like Kelly Slater or rip the waves like Mick Fanning. Knowing the basics and being able how to properly surf in unbroken waves is enough to get you through the initial assessments of some surf schools. 

Meanwhile, Level 2 instructors are the elite and club-level coaches that require intermediate surfing skills. They must be knowledgeable about video analysis, fitness improvement, and the long-term development of their clients. 

If you’re aiming for a beginner surf instructor, most surf camps and schools will first evaluate your surfing skills such as: 

  • How you take off when you’re at the peak of the wave and how you ride it for at least 1 to 1.5 meters;
  • How you surf green waves, including how you trim both left and right;
  • How you control your board when paddling out in high waves;
  • How you paddle out back by duck diving or turtle rolling;
  • How you perform basic top and bottom turns;
  • How you maintain your position in the lineup;

They may also test your level of understanding when it comes to surfing etiquette, such as not dropping in on someone and not bailing out on your board. Depending on the employer and position you’re applying for, these assessments shouldn’t take longer than an hour. After that, your qualifications will be reviewed. 


A surf instructor is a professional, similar to how engineers and lawyers. Before you become one, you will need to acquire one or two certifications from any of the following programs: 

  • ISA (International Surfing Association)
  • ASI (Academy of Surfing Instructors)
  • Surf Rescue Certificate
  • Zero to Hero course

International Surfing Association

Over its 25 years of service, the ISA has certified over 10,500 surf instructors and coaches worldwide. Their ISA Coaching and Instructing Program Level 1 is the most popular course for aspiring surf instructors because this certification is internationally recognized — hence why it’s best taken if you plan to coach surfing in other countries. 

This course includes learning basic classroom theories, first aid, CPR training, and drills, as well as physical and written assessments. You will also have to undergo 20 hours of supervised coaching or internship. This can be accomplished either by teaching at surf schools or camps or volunteering in surf clinics.

Depending on certain conditions, this course lasts 7 up to 14 days. 

Academy of Surfing Instructors

Another internationally recognized certification you could acquire is the Level 1 Surfing Instructor course of the ASI. Similar to ISA, this one’s also available in various places all over the globe. If you want to check out the list of locations where you can enroll in this course, you can go to their website

The ASI basic course includes theory and beach practicals like learning instruction and coaching methods, evaluating surf lessons, communication skills for the surf environment, as well as creating lesson plans. You will also be required to complete 25 hours of work or internship in a surf school recognized by the ASI.  

Surf Rescue Certificate

Being a lifeguard isn’t a requirement to becoming a surf instructor. The only important thing is you know the basic rescue operations and procedures. 

That said, having the Surf Rescue Certificate, Surf Lifesaver award or any beach lifeguard qualifications will also allow you to coach anywhere in the world. In this course, you will learn the safety and hazards of different surf environments and conditions. 

Zero to Hero Course

The courses mentioned above require you to be at least a Level 6 surfer. But if you have little experience and basic knowledge about this sport, don’t lose hope! You can still take the Zero to Hero course that includes surf coaching and all-course certifications.

This course lasts longer, about 10 to 12 weeks, considering how the program will teach you basic surfing skills and how you will be able to pass the assessments. 

Surfing Schools for Surf Instructors

The good news is no matter where you are in this world, you can be a surf instructor! There are a lot of surf schools that offer instructor courses, and here are some of the renowned ones.

Stoked Surf Adventure 

Australia is known to have the most thriving surf culture and industry; that’s why it’s the perfect location for learning how to surf. But if you want to make a career out of it, then you should enroll in Stoked Surf Adventure Academy’s Instructor Course. It’s available in Sydney, Byron Bay, and Brisbane. 

This course follows the Zero to Hero program, which means they don’t require you to know basic surfing skills. However, it’s a requirement that you’re able to swim for at least 50 meters without aids. 

Accommodation in the famous Spot X Surf Camp is also included in this course. In the camp, the internet is provided, you have access to cooking facilities and the beach volleyball court, there are sound systems, and… hammocks!

Surf South West

Next, we have the Surf South West in North Devon, England. This surf school offers Level 1 and Level 2 surf instructor courses to beginner and intermediate coaches. Their internationally-recognized programs have already produced instructors working in Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Morocco, and South Africa. 

Surf South West’s Level 1 course lasts for 2 days and is instructed by a Level 3 instructor. Additionally, a 20-hour post-surf coaching experience in a surf school is also required to get certifications. 

Ticket to Ride

Learning how to be a surf instructor is as fun as being on the job itself. With Ticket to Ride’s courses, you get to travel in their 13-week program, the last leg being located in Mozambique in Southeast Africa. 

Their Level 1 Surf Instructor course will expand your knowledge regarding surfboards and how they’re made. You’ll also learn different teaching methods and how to read swell conditions.

Meanwhile, their Lifesaving course will teach about first-aid, beach safety, and surfing hazards. For the surf coaching experience required, you’ll get to teach underprivileged people how to surf.

3 Tips When Applying for a Job

So you’ve got your qualifications and surf coaching experience, now it’s time for some job-hunting! Here are some tips you can follow to get that position you’re eyeing for. 

Go for internships

The more work experience you have, the better. Your reputation for being a good surf instructor gets stronger if you have a more solid coaching background. Apply for internships in well-known surf schools. You can also volunteer to work in non-profit organizations that teach surfing to the local community.

Check out online communities

The internet is your friend when applying to be a surf instructor. Look for job postings and join surf-related Facebook groups. Employers looking for surf instructors often post on these pages. Make connections and message surf camps for job vacancies if you can.

Send a video

When sending out your CVs, we recommend attaching a video wherein you introduce yourself. Being a surf instructor requires having a pleasing and engaging personality — someone people would love to listen to. In the video, you can talk about funny and memorable experiences, or state the reasons why they should hire you.


In summary, these are the things you need to accomplish if you want to become a surf instructor: 

  • Learn basic surfing skills.
  • Get the needed certificates and qualifications.
  • Improve your work experience by having internships. 
  • Apply as much as you can, and join Facebook groups for job postings. 

Being a surf instructor is a fulfilling career for surfers who want to inspire and influence other people. It is not the highest-paying job in the world, but we think that in this kind of profession, money only comes second to passion. 

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