How To Become An Outdoor Guide – Have you ever wondered what working out is like? Want to get a mount for your office, but don’t know where or how to start? I interviewed Heave Lewis of Average Joe Adventures about his life as an outdoor instructor and how he got there.
Heave: Hello! I’m Heave and I’m an outdoor trainer and blogger based in South Wales Over the past 8 years I have worked for multiple companies at various levels I completed my BSc Hons with Environmental Education from Liverpool John Moores University and achieved my ML Summer, SPA, UKCC Level 2 Paddle Sports Coach, 4* Canoe, Local Cave Leader Award and DOF Gold Assessor status.
How To Become An Outdoor Guide
Have: I currently work full time for Hampshire Council at their outdoor center in the Brecon Beacons. Each day can be different depending on the group we are in; From Sixth Form Residential, GCSE Climbing, to PGCE teaching students the importance of outdoor adventure activities across the curriculum.
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Heve: I never wanted to be an outdoor coach I chose my degree because of environmental science and geography… studying education and outdoor activities were a bonus. While at uni I spent my days off cycling, hiking and paddling around I worked on ‘Seasons’, Acorn Adventures and Call of the Wild. These early experiences were essential to my development as a coach I reached the end of my third year, and despite the qualifications, cold winters and notoriously low pay, I knew I wanted to be an outdoor instructor – a decision I’ve never looked back on.
Heve: I started freelancing, not with much success, but learned quickly from people who took chances on me. After a year working for various people I got a full time job working on the Fairbridge program in Cardiff. I spent a year doing various activities including NNAS (National Navigation Award Scheme), NICAS (National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme) and the UKCC Paddle Start Award to young people with different needs. I learned a lot in one year working with brilliant colleagues, both colleagues and clients They have taught me so much about myself and the work I do
In February 2014, I was being pulled up a button lift on my skis in the Nevis Ranges in Scotland when my phone rang that I had landed a full-time job working in Hampshire in the Brecon Beacons. Out! It may not be everyone’s dream but my long term goal was to get a job in an LEA center (Local Education Authority) and I achieved this within 2.5 years of leaving university.
Emily: You say it’s not everyone’s dream job What are the best parts of working as an outdoor trainer?
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Heve: Some of my most memorable days are the days when I look around and feel a ‘wow’ I am so blessed to be able to do my job, give people memorable experiences, take them to amazing places and teach them about the world around them.
A recent day that stands out in my mind was a sunny day instructing different groups with different special needs A young man with cerebral palsy didn’t have the confidence to climb because he thought he couldn’t. He referred to left and right as “good side” and “bad side”. With some coaching and support, she made it to the top of two separate climbs – a big smile on her face and a change in attitude towards her abilities. That’s why I do my job; The people I work with and the life-changing impact we can have on the activities we offer
Emily: It’s very rewarding He probably won’t even forget that climb Where is your work taking you at the moment?
Have: Long term, I plan to earn my MIA (Mountain Instructor Award) and hopefully one day my IML (International Mountain Leader). The latter is a long-term goal, hopefully I’ll use the travel experience over the next 15/20 years. This is my kids post, my schedule
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MIA wants to win soon Winning a 30+ VS 4c multipitch climb feels like a challenge as I’m pushing my climbing grade to reach it, but it’s good to have something to aim for and one day it won’t be forced, it’ll be my grade.
As a trainer I always ask clients to push themselves further from their comfort zone, it’s good for me to forget what it feels like. Being able to relate to the emotions and fears of clients is what makes me good at my job
Emily: What is it like to be a trainer in what often feels like a male-dominated industry?
Heave: Working in a male-dominated industry can wear you down a bit, men are generally stronger and taller, making certain tasks like loading a can onto the top rack of a trailer seem a little easier. It took me years to realize that I can do things the way they are, I just do them differently It’s not tension in my body in the usual less macho way I’m fine with not hurting myself to prove a point If my body fails, that’s the end of my outdoor career and many of my hobbies!
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I feel like I need to get some higher level qualification like MIA to be taken seriously by other teachers. I know it’s a pressure I put on myself, but as someone who is passionate about their career, I want to be respected by my peers. In South Wales in particular, I don’t know many female trainers who have stayed in it and worked their way up to higher qualifications and positions in local centres, it’s still a male dominated industry.
Statistics collected by Mountain Training in January 2017 reflect this, only 18% of ML holders, 16% of SPA holders and 11% of MIA holders are women! Keep climbing the ladder and only 6% of MIC holders and 4% of British mountain guides have breasts! If that doesn’t inspire you, as my boss says to ‘put on your big girl pants’ and work harder to get the qualifications you want, I don’t know what will. In the last year or two there has definitely been a strong women’s movement outdoors thanks to campaigns like ‘This Girl Can’ and more recently REI’s ‘Power of Nature’. We hope that the fruits of this will continue and the number of trainers will continue to grow
Heve: There are many paths to becoming an outdoor instructor, I just chose mine If you don’t have financial responsibilities such as a mortgage or children, I always recommend you start an internship at a center. In addition to learning the ropes from an experienced instructor, you can also decide if you want to practice it before you start full throttle. Whatever your situation, find a local climbing/caving/canoeing club to gain experience and start working towards qualifications.
For more information on qualifying or finding a local club, you can visit the relevant National Governing Council website below:
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You don’t have to do this full-time, and you don’t have to be qualified in all activities I know firefighters who give orders to cave and canoe I have worked with mums and plumbers who assess DofE or coaches in competitive paddlesport. Teachers who are also paid to run the external departments of their schools A B&B owner who takes his clients hiking and climbing
Freelancer salaries start at around £100 a day, increasing depending on the skill level you acquire. Be sure to leave tax and national insurance and register as self-employed if necessary The best sites to find outdoor jobs are BlueDome and the Institute of Outdoor Learning, where you can also find lots of knowledge on best practices and upcoming events.
Have Lewis enjoys the outdoors with a passion for adventure, food and travel When he’s indoors, you’ll find him crafting with a glass of wine in his hand and a dog curled up on his lap.
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