Hanging out at the beach, pushing people onto waves, and throwing shakas – is working as a surf instructor really that good? Leah spoke to Becky from Honu Honi Surf Camp to find out.

I asked Becky if she jumps out of bed excited for work every morning and I barely got the question out before a resounding ‘YES’ came back at me. As founder of Honu Honi Surf Camp in Torquay, Victoria, Becky has taken her job as a surf instructor and turned it into a career and a successful business.

Now she spends plenty of time in the ocean, has nurtured a community of surfers, and seems to field quite a few questions about sharks…

If you’ve ever wondered how to become a surf instructor and build a successful career from it, read on.

Getting ready to paddle out

Finding a Job You’re Passionate About

Plenty of us are in jobs we don’t necessarily love, but they pay the bills right? Hell, if you’re lucky it’ll pay for some awesome adventures too. But what if you had an ‘ah-ha’ kind of moment and found an opportunity to pursue a career that really inspired you?

For Becky, the moment came in her mid-20s, when she’d already built a successful career in the personal training industry. After having her eye on a surf camp experience in NSW for a couple of years, Becky finally took a break from work to go there.

It turned out to be the spark that she needed.

‘I went up for a week originally and I was just like, I never want to leave.’

What followed was a complete life change – ditching a job, a relationship, and selling her house to move there. Once Becky realised the surf instructor life was for her, there wasn’t any hesitation with that.


Learning to surf along the Great Ocean Road

Gaining Experience as a Surf Instructor

One week turned into five months at the surf camp. Then Becky returned to Victoria and began instructing at a local surf school in Torquay. This turned out to be the ideal way to cement the skills she needed to teach a wide range of people.

The repetition of the classes meant learning how to teach different things and how to understand the conditions of the beaches, both good and bad.

For Becky these lessons were all about ‘Frothing people up and getting them on the wave… which is super fun.’


Learning how to paddle out and read the waves

Progressing Your Career as a Surf Instructor

Despite some assumptions about surf instructors being flaky or only hanging around til the snow season starts, there are opportunities to progress beyond just a casual job.

Some companies offer sought-after full time roles. There are also surf schools that value their instructors and are working to make it a viable career (Honu Honi is one of them). Or you could start your own surf camp, which is the option Becky chose.


Victorias only adult focussed surf camp is on the Great Ocean Road


When she was teaching the same lesson over and over again, Becky  realised there was an opportunity being missed. The lessons were an excellent two hours of stoke, riding the whitewater, and surviving nosedives. But for anyone who wanted to progress beyond that, there wasn’t really an option.

‘People like myself who wanted to learn as an adult, were just getting the same thing over and over.’

Starting Your Own Surf Coaching Business

The opportunity to create an experience for adults who really want to learn to surf is where Becky’s surf camp and six-week program came to fruition.

Instead of continuing to work for other companies, she built her own business. Honu Honi is the only adult-focussed surf camp in Victoria and all the programs are based on Becky’s own surf coaching method.


Loving the Honu Honi surf camp experience


Becky instructs and runs the camps, where participants learn to read the waves, paddle out the back, sit on their board, and catch unbroken waves.

‘All those little things that you could never fit into a two hour session.’

Instead of just walking away stoked, Becky’s students leave with a whole new skill set that will allow them to grow their surfing abilities.

For many it’s the beginning of a love affair with surfing that Becky totally understands.

‘I literally changed my whole world to fit around the sport once I found it – so I know how special it can be.’

Waking Up Stoked to Go to Work

It’s not just the students who love Honu Honi Surf Camp, Becky wakes up every morning excited to see her clients and hang out with them. She also has a creative freedom that wasn’t there in other surf instructor roles.

Becky can tailor the surf camps and surf programs as needed and when a new idea comes up, there’s no hesitation to flesh it out and make it happen.


Becky has built a successful business as a surf instructor

‘We get to really meet our community’s needs – we don’t have to do one size fits all.’

FAQs About Becoming a Surf Instructor

What qualifications do I need to be a surf instructor?

Most advertised roles will specify what accreditation you need to be eligible to work as a surf instructor. An entry level surf instructor will need to complete a Surf Coaching Course and an Ocean Safety Qualification, as well as hold First Aid and CPR qualifications.

Surf Coaching courses are run by accredited providers such as the State Surfing Associations or Surfing Australia.

What assumptions do people make about work as a surf instructor?

Becky says, ‘I get asked a lot about sharks. People ask if we see sharks – and the answer is no.’

What does a surf instructor actually do?

Getting in the water and teaching people how to surf is the main part of the job but there’s other aspects too. In particular, there’s a lot of cleaning – getting sand off the wetsuits and boards at the end of the lessons.

For Becky there’s a community building element to her job as there’s always opportunities to follow up with clients who’ve come to the camp or participated in the surf programs.

How can I get started as a surf instructor?

To get a feel for the role of surf instructor before launching into getting your qualifications, Becky recommends either going to a surf camp, or volunteering. There are surf camps all around Australia and plenty of surf organisations that offer volunteer opportunities to get in the water and help people learning to surf (such as Ocean Mind in Victoria).

Can I make a living as a surf instructor?

Becky warns that it’s not always easy to make a living as a surf instructor. When you’re just getting started it takes time and commitment to make it work.

‘I really burnt through my savings that first year because I was adamant this is what I wanted to do.’

If you’re working as a casual instructor and only getting paid for your time in the water, it would be challenging to make a living from that alone. Many instructors are either still living at home or have other jobs to boost their income.

However, if you’re willing to progress your career like Becky did – and ride the wave of opportunities – you might just wake up feeling the stoke every day too.