The life of a kitesurfer instructor: a few things to know when you start!

Kite girl life, The instructor life

Reading time: 9 minutes

Yesterday morning I woke up super tired, after a week of lessons, and on Saturday I spent all day at the beach teaching, thinking that it would have been the longest day ever as I had another full day at the beach… AND INSTEAD: what an incredible Sunday! I’ve had a combo of 3, not 1, but 3 very successful lessons where my students came out super happy and achieved all the goals of the lessons. These are the days I am really proud of!

So you might think that the life of a kitesurfing instructor is a piece of cake, wakes up, goes to the beach, enjoys the sun, she/he’s all tanned, chilled out at the beach for a few hours teaching the students, hangs loose, goes for a kite session and then goes for beers…living the good and easy life!

HAHAHAHA you wish!

No I mean, it’s generally like that but I choose to work in a very cool spot called El Médano where the conditions sometimes are not really your friend teaching-wise.. riding-wise instead it’s a lot of fun!!! 

So if you are an instructor or you would like to become one here’s a few things to consider when selecting your first or next job 🙂

THE DRESS CODE

Since we were talking about this let’s start from here 😉 Depending on the spot, how you get ready for the class can be quite different.

Unless you teach on a tropical island in the Caribbean where the temperature is warm and the wind is warm, you have to wear the wetsuit all day long and in some cases a wind jacket so you get a super weird tan… On my legs, I have 3 marks of tan based on which wetsuit I use therefore I look ridiculous with shorts ahahah

When you work in a spot with strong and gusty wind, in a small space, with waves (seriously what a combo) the chances of falling kites arise so I use a helmet while working because I got a few kites dropping on my head and it wasn’t fun. 

And generally speaking, when you work all day under the sun with flying sand your face and skin get a lot of damage, most of us in El Medano use a sort of scarf/neckwarmer to protect the face, sunglasses otherwise your eyes will get red and hat.

I ended up going to the beach like this:

Lagiokite ready for a day at the beach

And my colleagues as well!

Luca, Diego and Enmanuel getting ready to rock!

PROFESSIONALISM!

The most important thing I would like to clarify is that being a Kitesurfing instructor is a job, a very fun one but still a job, and like any other job there are responsibilities and you need to be professional also because you are teaching an extreme sport.

How can you do so? By learning a teaching method that will allow you to teach in the safest way possible all the steps to bring your student to zero to an independent rider. 

Mind my words > independent rider and not simply to teach the student to ride. Because the world is already full of people that don’t understand the wind window and don’t know how to launch a kite or kiters who never walked on the beach before, never body dragged and don’t know how to get back to the board when they lose them, etc., etc., etc. At the end of the day kitesurfing it’s an extreme sport and we, the instructors, have the duty to prepare future kiters to be independent to avoid most of the injuries and accidents.

There are several international and national certifications. You can choose your certification depending if you stay in one country or if you travel around the world. For example, if you live in Tarifa you will need the FAV certification otherwise you won’t be able to work there. Instead, if you would like to travel around the world, working in a different spot I would recommend an international certification like IKO. Which has an incredible network of schools all over the world following the IKO standards always looking for new instructors and gives you a good carrier perspective if you want to grow into the teaching world of kitesurfing and becoming an instructors´ trainer or a coach. Click here to see when is the next IKO course!

THE CONDITIONS

There are several types of spots where you can work as a kite instructor. 

This or that spot!

Imagine a big lagoon or a long beach with shallow flat water, warm light stable wind, not a lot of kiters= heaven!

Imagine a narrow beach, choppy sea with a fun shore break, gusty strong wind, lots of kiters= nightmares

In between these two, there is a huge amount of different combinations that can make your job easier or harder. 

Then you can work from the boat or from the beach and these are two completely different worlds… So in general when you’re about to choose a spot to work there, try to understand well how the spot works to avoid any incredible surprises.

For example, in the past days we had heavy conditions: strong gusty winds (the anemometer at the certain point was going crazy 24 avg 32 gust WHAT?!?!), high tie in the middle of the day which reduces the space of the beach by half, then a meter of shore break to make the entrance and exit of the students more difficult and rocks all over the place… Luckily we don’t have a lot of days like this, but these days my heartbeat is basically dancing the cha cha cha all the time.

THE DIFFERENT KITE LIVES

There is a lot of type of lives that you can do while being a kite instructor. 

I’ve heard of instructors doing each season in a different place so that they can travel and discover new amazing spots every 4-6 months. 

Some instructors have agreements with schools so that they go in the winter season in one place and in the summer season in another place (every year the same ones) and in between seasons they have amazing holidays somewhere windy and exotic.

Other instructors do a very intensive season in one place where is granted that you work a lot of hours (like the Garda lake) and then they take the rest of the year off to travel and have a long holiday.

Some instructors do this job part-time in the summer season for fun in their local spot.

Others live in a place where it’s windy all year long so they can work on the same spot without moving too much.

When I started my instructor life I wanted to do like the first ones on the list, discover all the kite spots of the world. Then covid came and I was lucky enough to be in El Médano where I was able to live out of kiting lessons all year long. Now that traveling is a bit of a challenge, it’s nice to be able to stay in a place like this and work 🙂

HOURS OF KITING

When you think about the kitesurf instructor job you might think that you´ll also become a pro in kiting, sounds cool no?! well…. It depends.

If you go to work in a spot where there are only 4-5 hours per day of wind in the season, let’s be clear, those 4-5 hours will be dedicated to teaching and not riding.

I’ve done a summer season once in a spot where I completely forgot how to kite as we were teaching all the windy hours and once the wind stopped we were done teaching. 

Now living in Tenerife where we have about 250-300 days of wind a year and 8-10 hours of wind a day I can go kiting every day, some times I am too tired to kite but some of my colleagues never miss a day.

This is quite an important point that sometimes we miss when selecting the first kite jobs and then you learn 😛

AMOUNT OF SCHOOLS ON THE SPOT

There are places where the spot is full of schools sharing the same beach like here in El Médano, Tarifa, or Cabarete and then there are places where there is only one school at the spot. 

Amount of kite schools

When you work for the only school in the spot it’s a very chilled atmosphere when you have more than one school then problems could arise. 

Surprisingly in El Médano, we are about 7 schools (average 4-5 instructors per school) plus some freelancers, the beach is 250meters so not a lot of space and we all live in peace respecting the rules. Actually, there is such a good vibe that’s quite nice to spend the day at the beach! Sometimes when we go back to work after a few days of no wind it almost feels like going back to the office after the Christmas holidays everybody is so happy to see each other again!

However, I’ve heard of places where the schools are not as friendly to each other and there is not such a cool atmosphere… 

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: MONEY

Usually, the hourly pay is more or less similar around the world, it goes between 15 and 25 euros depending on the spot.

The salary is based on the spot cost of living but also on the number of hours that you could work. Meaning that if you are on a spot where you could potentially work 40 hours per week, most probably the hourly salary will be slightly less. If you work only 10 hours per week it could be higher.

Some schools will pay you hourly, others could have a fix + variable formula, and with some, you could get a % if you sell more courses, equipment, etc.

Other things that can make the difference in the salary: 

Equipment > whether you can use the school material to go out and have fun. For example, in my school, we can use everything, from kite equipment to foil, wing foil, surf, sup.. It’s awesome! We also have a great discount when we buy material from the school.

Tips > Another thing that can make the difference is the tips there are places in the world (like schools in 5 starts hotels) where you have more chances to get tips and you’ll make more money with them than with your salary. Once for a 2 hours class where I got paid 50 dollars, I received a tip of 70 dollars isn’t it nice?!

Sleeping arrangement > some schools provide a room, others give you an allowance to cover a bit of the cost and others nothing.

WORKING VISAS AND INSURANCE

Unfortunately some times in this industry the instructors are contracted not in the most legal way. Always check with the school if they´ll give you a contract, if you are legally allowed to work in the country and mostly if the school has an insurance and if it would cover you in case of accident with a student.

To be 100% sure I´ve done my own insurance via IKO here you can see the different type of insurances that they offer https://www.ikointl.com/instructor-renewal

Am I missing something? Write it in the comments or send me a message 🙂

If you are interested in becoming an IKO instructor in PKS Tenerife we will host another IKO instructors course in November > https://www.pkskitesurftenerife.es/en/cursoinstructoriko/

For all the other locations you can check when are the next courses here: https://www.ikointl.com/it/corso/istruttore-livello-1

If you are not doing it already follow me on Instagram AKA lagiokite and if you come to Tenerife come to El Médano to say “hello” in the windy days I´ll be at the beach working as a kite instructor with the PKS Tenerife School!

Ciao Ciao

Lagiokite

Beginner in kitesurfing: from fears to equipment selection

Kite knowledge

Reading time: 6 min

Yesterday I was invited to participate in a SheFlies event “BADASS BEGINNERS” as part of a panel to chat with beginners in Kitesurfing and Wakeboarding. The main topic was to talk about the hard part of starting these wonderful sports and sports in general I would say. I’ve found in front of me an incredible group of about 40 women eager to ask questions and know more about others´ experiences. 

Badass Beginners - SheFlies
Badass Beginners – SheFlies

It was an incredibly interesting call as some of us always think that we are the only ones going through some difficulties which instead are pretty much shared between the beginners.

I’m a constant beginner in a lot of things: kite foil, wing foil, surf, surf skate, balance boarding so I completely understand the frustration part of when your learning curve seems to slow down. Also being an instructor I live frustration through the eyes of some of my students as they might arrive with very high expectations and then the lesson plan doesn’t go as planned.

PKS Tenerife Kite School
PKS Tenerife Kite School

Let’s be honest, if you’ve learned how to kitesurf you know that there are several points where the learning process gets steep like the water start. Some of us have the impression to be stuck in the water start forever and ever and ever. No worries people… you are not alone!

Another incredible barrier that people don’t talk about but it’s shared is the fear of deep water and the unknown below. I know something about it … I fought against it for years just imagine that 6 years ago I would not enter the water alone, I would count the chances of getting eaten by a shark even in a swimming pool – irrational I know! And to be honest, in new spots, I still feel uneasy. 

r/thalassophobia - The unknown is lurking in the deep..
Thalassophobia

Some of us have beach anxiety, some have crowd anxiety, some have “what if I don’t make it back to the beach” fear, each one of us has is own little devil to fight. As Josie from SheFlies said when we are talking about an extreme sport this includes that there is a physical but also a mental barrier that needs to be overcome, and that’s right. As practicing an extreme sport means going out of your comfort zone, by a lot and this is never easy.

Planet Kitesurf Holidays | Picdump, Kitesurfing, Kitesurfen
Crowd anxiety

Another interesting point was about feeling that you don’t progress as much while learning in many different spots. And I can understand that. If you are a very beginner and you keep on changing the spot and instructors it takes a longer time to adapt as if you were an experienced kitesurfer. So you “waste” time in getting to know the spot and the instructor needs to get to know you instead of getting in and go for the exercise you’ve done the last time. So, piece of advice, if you want to learn to kitesurf the best solution is to take a few days and go to an easy spot so that you can learn all the basics at once and then you have those locked in.

People sometimes ask me “how long does it take to ride on a board?” This is one of the most difficult questions to answer as it depends on the person. It depends on the spot you are: if it is a flat lagoon with stable wind or a wavy spot with gusty wind. Trust me the first option is way easier. It depends if you have a little devil to fight against (see above). It depends if you are a coordinated person or not. I would say that it could take you 8-10 hours to do your first meters on the board. Some might need less and some might need way more.

PKS Tenerife Kite school

As the call moved forward more technical questions arise and I noticed that sometimes when it’s time to buy your material there is a bit of uncertainty about what to buy.

So here´s a guide on HOW TO SELECT YOUR EQUIPMENT!

The first items that I would buy would be a wetsuit (in case you are in a spot you need it) and the harness.

RRD Sense Harness
RRD Sense Harness

OMG THE HARNESS!!! I spent 1 year with the wrong harness and after 30 min of riding my back would hurt!!! You need to find a harness that will suit your body like a glove. My suggestion is to buy a new harness as it usually lasts lots of years, almost forever I would say. I used mine for 5 years and then the fabric parts start to wear out so it does not look cool anymore but it’s still functional and can be used. Even if you don’t plan on buying all the equipment because you’ll rent it. If you have back problems having your harness will help a lot. Last but not least, during most of the classes you wear a seat harness but when you buy your first one you can upgrade to a waist harness unless you have heavy back problems.

By the way, nowadays most brands have specific lines of harnesses for women some of the best ones are RRD Sense, Mystic Diva, ION NOVA CURV, Ride Engine Elite.

For all the rest, as a beginner, you don’t need brand new shiny equipment. You need good second-hand equipment that you can destroy and won’t feel so bad about it. Your first kite is going to be your guinea pig and you’ll have to experiment a lot with it. Make lots of errors and lots of crashes. I’ve bought a brand new kite after 5 years of kiting.

The kite.

Different kites´ shapes and performances
Different kites´ shapes and performances

 As a beginner the safer choice is a 4 lines re-ride safety system (which is the most common one) in terms of shape it can either be bow or hybrid. As long as you stay clear of pure C-kites for your beginner kite and a 5 lines bar you’ll be good. The C-kites are hard to water re-launch and the 5th line could be a nightmare in some cases.

The canopy and fabric: It is not recommended to buy a kite older than 4-5 years, although it also depends on how they were used. You will need to check how worn-out is the kite. Usually, the fabric of new kites is very crunchy when you touch it. So if you feel there is no crunching sound left when touching the kite it might be too worn-out. You would need to also check reparations, holes in the fabric. If it has a big reparation that could have an impact on how the kite flies.

The valves: You need to check that the kite stays inflated to do so usually it’s best to inflate the kite and wait for 30min. When checking the valves you need to see that they are well attached and that the tubes are not dry or cracked if so, this means that they have lost elasticity and they will break.

Try to buy a one-pump kite it means that you’ll have to inflate it only from one valve instead of inflating all the struts separately and then inflate the leading edge.

The kite size.

Which size is good for you? This is a very tricky question. If you have your home spot, I would start to buy one kite that will allow you to ride most of the wind days. If you will travel a lot then having two kites a small and a big would be recommended so that you can cover more wind range. Choosing the right size of the kite is not a specific science and there are plenty of different points of view. 

Somebody has created a formula to calculate the kite size to choose:Weight (kg) / wind (knots) x 2.2 = size of kite you should be using

E.g. 58 kg / 16 knots x 2.2 = 7.9 so use an 8m kite.

Here’s another chart from Surfertoday.com 

Weight - wind- kite chart
Weight – wind- kite chart

The best suggestion is: when you go to your lesson always check how many knots and which size you are using and if you felt good or not with it. So that you start to be aware of what’s the best size for you. 

*Please remember that this is just an indication for beginners, then when you start to be more experienced you will be able to choose the kite size depending on your style!

The bar.

The most important thing, the safety system needs to work perfectly and smoothly. You might want to check how the bar and lines alignment, watch this video for the instructions on how to do it (from min 1:15)

How to check your bar alignment

The board 

TWIN TIP GLOBAL RANGE RRD Y25 on Vimeo

Choosing the right board size is also a fun game. The best option is to start with a twin-tip and the size depends mostly on your weight and your home spot conditions. 

More or less these are the most recommended measurements based on weight for a beginner:

• 55kg / 65kg = 39/41 x 132/136 cm

 • 65kg / 75kg = 40/43 x 136/142 cm

 • 75kg / 85kg = 41/44 x 138/145 cm

 • 85kg / 100kg= 43/45 x 140/148 cm

Then you need to know that if you are on a flat spot you can use a slightly bigger board but on a wavy/choppy spot a big board can challenging and too heavy. 

In flat water you can use a more stiff board (like a carbon one) however for choppy spots is suggested to use a more flexible one so your knees won´t hurt so much!

Hope this article was helpful, if you want to know more or have questions comment below or reach out to me!

And to all the beginners out there, I know sometimes learning to kitesurf can be frustrating and a struggle but don’t give up because once you’ll be able to ride it will change your life forever!

If you want to know more about the next online events of SheFlies click here or follow SheFlies on Instagram

Ciao ciao, LaGioKite

If you are not doing it already follow me on Instagram too 😛  and if you come to Tenerife come to El Médano to say “hello” in the windy days I´ll be at the beach working as kite instructor with the PKS Tenerife School!

The importance of choosing a good school when you start to work as an IKO kite instructor!

Senza categoria, The instructor life

As most of you know I’m a kitesurfing instructor, two and a half years ago I started to teach in Puerto Rico for a school called WindAddiction, and I immediately fell for the job. Teaching kitesurfing was like a fresh breath of new air and I absolutely loved it.

To be honest I knew this would have happened… so I was only getting ready to put in practice what my mind decided already. And so, a few months later I passed the IKO exam in Cabarete and I made this my main job. 

Unfortunately, Puerto Rico does not have any IKO centers and I had to leave anyway, so I started to look for another spot where I could teach kitesurfing. I submitted several applications and talked to quite a few schools. I wanted to come closer to Europe to be able, after 5 years in the caribbeans, to see my family and friends more often than once a year. Destiny wanted me to connect with Carlo, the owner of PKS – Professional Kite School – in Castiglione della Pescaia, in Tuscany. He convinced me very easily, besides the fact that Carlo is one of those people that have a great vibe, he talked to me about how they would have helped me in becoming a better kitesurf instructor. At that time, I had maybe 9 months of teaching experience in a school that wasn’t using the IKO teaching methodology (do not worry I’ll explain this in another blog post). I really needed guidance. And I thought, I need to take this seriously because I want kitesurfing to become my career and if I could have somebody who’ll explain more and give me all the tips and tricks of the job that would have been wonderful.

And there I was, in Tuscany, after 10 years out of Italy eating like a pig, drinking wine like there’s no tomorrow and learning how to teach kitesurfing. THE BEST COMBO EVER for the summertime.  Carlo stood up to his word, him and other more experienced instructors taught me a lot. Tehe positive sides of teaching in a place like PKS Beach are: the spot is flat, the wind is smooth and light, PKS is the only kite school around and we had a dedicated area for teaching. The challenging part of teaching in Tuscany is the light wind. Everybody can fly and relaunch a kite with 15-18 and above knots, but can you do it with 10? Coming from a place where the average wind was min 18 knots you can imagine I didn’t know how to fly a kite with 10-12 knots… With a lot of training and feedback and frustration I’ve survived the 10 knots conditions with a big smile as I brought home a huge amount of learnings! I was really lucky to find a school who wanted to invest time to train me and I will be forever grateful for this. 

Then I moved to Tenerife to work with PKS Tenerife, a new kite school  Carlo opened in El Médano in the Canary Islands. Well guys, we went from 10knots to 30knots. To give you the idea, in summer time we need to cancel the classes because there is too much wind. So you can easily understand that here, even though the IKO teaching method is the same, you need to adjust to the conditions 25-30 knots, shore break and 100 kiters in the water and 10 kite schools working in the same spot. Even in this case you will need the experience from somebody else to guide you to keep your student alive ;P 

GoinKitesurf | Kitesurf lessons in El Medano, Tenerife.
Normal day in El Médano

Now I am exaggerating but most probably I would not suggest somebody in her/his first kite instructor experience to choose a location like this.

The IKO course teaches you a lot but at the same time there is a lot of learning that comes from experience and practice with real students. A learning baggage that you will create with the hours you spend on the beach watching, observing and analyzing. 

If you do this job right, you will start to pick up all the small errors the students make and correct them immediately so that the lesson program will run smoother and the student will ultimately have a better kite control in less time. There are plenty of errors that are repeated among students and what really helped me discovering them, besides hours of watching the students, is also brainstorming with the more experienced instructors of the school. That’s also another incredible benefit to work for a school with an instructor group that helps each other overcome possible obstacles with students. There will always be that one error you didn’t know, or a specific case which you don’t know how to manage. And here, it’s when the availability of somebody like my boss Carlo, or more experienced instructor can make a difference mostly when you are starting your career as an instructor.

In PKS Tenerife we recently welcomed a new member of the team, an IKO Assistant trainer called Guido. For me it was like Christmas, I can spend hours with him talking about some of the teaching methods and how to apply them to different students. I’ve done almost 1000 hours of teaching and still I have two students that are blocked at the waterstart step. I’ve tried it all, ran out of ideas, and with Guido we discussed other possible ways to make them overcome their barrier. Curious to try them out in my next lessons with them.

It seems like an easy job, and it could appear a very repetitive job. I assure you that it’s not, or at least, it really depends how you do it, like any other job. Beside the fact that you are responsible to teach somebody how to practice an extreme sport, each student is different, they learn in different ways and you have to adapt to them to make sure they understand everything correctly.

So to summarize my biggest recommendation would be to find a kite job in a school where a head of instructor, or the boss will teach you all the tips and tricks of the job so that you will progress way easier in teaching kitesurfing.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section!

Ciao ciao

LaGioKite