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Sport & Recreation careers

Water Sports: Swimming, Rowing, Sailing & Others

Why get into water sports?

If you’re a little confused about what is meant by water sports, we just want to clarify that we’re talking about things like swimming, rowing, sailing, windsurfing, kite surfing and kayaking.  

Of course, you could pursue a career competing in any of these sports, or you could acquire more of an educational sort of position. The choice is yours!

How do I get started?

At one time or another, most people experience the thrill that only a water sport can give. Whether you’re being flung down a river in a kayak on a school trip in the deepest, darkest corners of northern Wales, or windsurfing in the crystal blue seas of the Mediterranean, it’s all good. Everyone loves it, but only a few manage to make a career out of it.

Of course, if you have a taste for it and you’re actually quite good, there’s always a chance that you can compete at a high level. If this sounds like the sort of thing you’d be interested in, you’ll have to join a water sports club at a relatively young age. You’ll be surprised at how many clubs and water sport centres there are around the UK, so have a quick look online for your local establishment and get involved.

Here, you can hang out with like-minded people, develop your skills and begin to compete at a relatively high standard - after a bit of elbow grease and a few years of practise though, obviously.

Depending on the sport, it can be quite expensive to buy your own equipment. Windsurfs, for example, average at around £1000, but you can get second-hand stuff for a fairly reasonable price.

However, if you join a club, they should have the right equipment for you to borrow. Then it’s simply a case of getting to the point where you’re of world-class standard. Easy, right? You’ll be competing in international competitions in no time.

Unlike more mainstream sports, it can be tricky to make a career solely out of competing, unless you reach the very top. Not everyone has the ability and mental agility of Ellen MacArthur, so it’s a good idea to have other irons in the water sports fire, so to speak.

Tutoring and coaching can be a good career path to follow. You could initially work with younger individuals starting to get into the sport, before climbing the ladder and eventually working with more established and talented athletes.

Alternatively, you could work at one of many outdoor adventure centres across the UK, where you’d instruct visitors, take them out on the water and show them the ropes.

As your career develops, you could look into potentially becoming an outdoor pursuits manager. These centres employ a whole host of different individuals. The maintenance team would ensure that all the facilities and equipment are in good condition and safe. After all, you can’t let a bunch of kids go white water rafting with dodgy helmets. It would be absolute carnage!

Stepping away from the action slightly, if you have a way with words you could try and get into the journalistic side of water sports. Events like the Oxford-Cambridge boat race and the Gold Regatta get international coverage. There needs to be someone there at the heart of the action interviewing the winners and losers and giving the world the lowdown on all the action.

Now, with water sports not being too mainstream, this could involve working freelance at first, where you’d write for a number of different publications, before moving on to a more niche sort of publication, such as Sailing Today.

What does it take?

For those of you who want to compete, you have to have way more than a passing passion for it. You’ve got to have the desire and time to put in hours of practice and throw yourself into the sport. It can take years to get to a standard where you’re ready to compete, but there’s no reason why this isn’t possible.

For any sort of coaching role, you’ll really need to be an expert in your field, not only in terms of ability but health, safety and enjoyment as well. You’ll need to know all about the sport, the different conditions, what your athletes should eat before a big competition and so on.

To work in water sport adventure centres, most people initially get involved through summer work and work their way up to a more permanent position.

So if you’re like a fish in water, and seek the thrills that water sports can bring, a career in this subsector may be exactly what you’re looking for!

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