L1 Instructor Course

The role of the instructor

Importance: Medium. If you are an instructor of other outdoor activities and/or work in the education sector, you will already be well aware that there is far more to instructing than simply telling people how to do stuff.  You’ll already be familiar with much of the information in this lesson, but it’s only a short one so there’s probably no harm in viewing it anyway. 

This lesson is about you!  A summary of what will be required of you, if you’re going to succeed as an instructor. Being a good instructor involves a number of skillsets, and it’s important to understand this from Day One.  It’s certainly not about being the best paddler – indeed quite often the best athletes make very poor instructors, because they have no empathy or understanding for the challenges that the ‘ordinary person’ faces.

This lesson is a quick summary of what will be required of you, in general terms. You’re going to find all this out for yourself anyway, but it’s definitely worthwhile to have a heads-up as to what you’re getting into before you start! The lesson will take around 20 minutes to complete.

The training video discusses: 

  • The requirements of the instructor
  • The obligations of the instructor. 

There will not be any questions in the written test about this material, it is more for your general understanding of the world of SUP instruction. 


Check Understanding!

  • Do you understand that there are many different aspects to being a good instructor
  • Do you understand what the essential obligations are?

If you’re unsure on any of these, go back and review the lesson again. Otherwise, congratulations!! You’ve completed the learning phase of the L1 SUP Instructor course. 

Where Next?

Congratulations, you’ve completed the online section of the L1 Instructor Course!  It’s a lot of information, but you’ll have access to it for the duration of your instructor qualification, and you’re welcome to review any of the lessons any time.  If you would like a zoom discussion about any of the material in the course please contact us.

If you feel confident in the material, then please go ahead and complete the two online assessments below. The first is multi choice, and you can view the answers after you have completed it. This is to help you ensure that you have absorbed all the knowledge you need. The second is a written test, which we will grade after submission. (The final questionnaire on course feedback you can fill in after you’ve completed your assessment).

Next up, time to be thinking about your final assessment. Here is a quick recap of the ‘homework’ that you have been set during the various lessons.

Lesson 5:  Delivering a safety briefing. 

Have you downloaded and printed out the prompt card and practiced delivering the safety briefing? This will be a requirement at the assessment. 

Lesson 7: Dealing with problems

Have you produced (ie written out) your own GAGA solution to the 3 problem scenarios (4,5 & 6) listed in this lesson? 

Lesson 22: Teaching Beginners

Have you downloaded and printed out the prompt card and practiced delivering the Part B (the onshore section of the session), as detailed in this lesson? This will be a requirement at the assessment. 

Remember too, your paddling ability assessment, as discussed in the introductory lesson. Have you submitted the required video of you paddling? If your paddling skills are not up to the required standard you will not pass the assessment. 

So, once you’ve done your homework, you feel confident enough in delivering a safety briefing and the part B section of the lessons, and your paddling is up to scratch, then please go ahead and  contact us to organise your assessment. 

Working with Children

Importance: Depends… If you intend to work with children then the information in this lesson is pretty vital. Not so much if you only ever intend to work with adults.  However, you should still have a basic understanding of the general requirements.

This lesson is about working with young people, which is extremely rewarding and usually great fun, but can most certainly present a whole different array of interesting challenges and issues!    The lesson will take about 25 minutes to complete.

The training video discusses: 

  • The legal & ethical considerations for working with young people
  • Recommended minimum ages
  • General advice on working with youngsters
  • Some of the problems and issues that may arise
  • A quick look at some of the paddleboard-related activities you can consider when working with young people.

This barely scratches the surface of the topic – working with young people can be a whole course in itself. For some instructors it’s their ‘bread and butter’,  others prefer the somewhat  quieter and less hectic life of working with adults!

If you require a Police Check certificate please contact us – NZSUP is an authorised Police Check certification source. There will be at $25 administration fee for the service.

The written test at the practical assessment may include questions on minimum age recommendations and equipment choices for teaching young people.


Check Understanding!

  • Do you understand the recommendations for minimum ages when teaching young people?
  • Do you understand how you should adapt your instruction to create the right tone and environment for working with young people?
  • Are you comfortable with equipment for instructing young people?
  • Do you have some ideas about what sort of on-water activities you might do with young people?

If you’re unsure on any of these, go back and review the lesson again.

Otherwise, well done – you’ve completed the Safety and Planning section of the SUP Instructor Level 1 course! If you would like a zoom discussion about any of the material in this section please contact us.

PROMPT: Have you submitted the video of your paddling technique to us yet? Don’t leave this too late, just in case there’s any significant work-ons needed. All the information about what is needed can be found in Lesson 1, the Introduction.

Remember also to print out and practice your safety briefings, as detailed in Lesson 5, and your GAGA responses to the emergencies detailed in Lesson 7.

Group Control

Importance: High. Group control is an essential aspect of your work, both from a safety management and general enjoyment point of view.

This lesson looks at the important skill of maintaining control of your group of clients whilst on the water.    It will take around 20 minutes to complete.

The training video discusses: 

  • Recommended group sizes
  • Good practice recommendations for the instructor 
  • The problems with group control that the instructor may encounter 
  • Group dynamics, and how they can impact on a group
  • How do deal with problems that may arise 

Every group of clients is different, no two lessons are ever the same. Learning to manage a group is a skill that comes with practice, but having some ideas in advance on what might go wrong and how best to deal with it will be of great value, particularly for your first few lessons.

The written test at the practical assessment may include questions on group sizes and group control techniques.


Check Understanding!

  • Do you understand the various recommended group instructor:client ratios?
  • Do you understand how you can utilise other competent adults in order to increase your group size?
  • Can you recall some of the main issues that the instructor is likely to face in terms of group control?
  • What techniques would you use in order to keep your group together?

If you’re unsure on any of these, go back and review the lesson again. Otherwise, you can move on to the next lesson.

Dealing with problems

Importance: Critical! There are tasks at the end of this lesson page that you need to complete and bring with you to your assessment. You are also quite likely to encounter a (simulated) emergency in your assessment, and will be expected to deal with it using the process outlined in this lesson.

This lesson looks at how to deal with problems that may occur during a SUP activity. This is a vitally important part of the course, hence the extra time devoted to it. The lesson will take around an hour to complete, but has been broken into smaller subsections so as to make it easier to digest.

The first training video discusses the general approach for dealing with problems.  Once you’ve watched this you will have the opportunity to consider how you would deal with some scenarios.

Now that you have watched the video and are familiar with the GAGA approach, consider the following scenarios. With each one, consider how you would handle the problem.  Write it down in GAGA format – ie start with how you would handle and utilise the group,  then your assessment of the situation and how it’s going to play out, then consider whether you’re going to need to get help or not, and if so, how you’d do it, and finally, what actions you’d take. When you’ve done all that, listen to the video debrief of the problem and see how it compares to your own notes.  

Problem Scenario 1
You are on the water in the middle of a lesson with a group of middle aged paddlers.  One of them suddenly drops his paddle, clutches his chest and collapses onto their board…

Consider how you would handle this scenario – write down your thoughts for each stage of the GAGA process, then watch the video below to see how it compares to your own notes.

This first example has hopefully given you a clearer grasp of how to use the GAGA approach to best effect. With that in mind, now have a go at the next problem scenario: 

Problem Scenario  2
You are 15 minutes into a cruise along the shore with a group of clients, when a participant falls off their board and cuts their foot badly on some underwater sharp thing. They call to you for help, and you paddle over – it’s clearly a deep and nasty cut, there’s lots of blood on the board and in the water.

Consider how you would handle this scenario – write down your thoughts for each stage of the GAGA process, then watch this video to see how it compares to your own notes. 

And one more…

Problem Scenario 3
You’re 100m offshore with a group of clients during a coastal session. One client suddenly sees something large and alive underwater, and COMPLETELY freaks out – they collapse into a screaming heap…

Consider how you would handle this scenario – write down your thoughts for each stage of the GAGA process, then watch this video to see how it compares to your own notes. 

Hopefully these examples have given you a clearer picture of how to use the GAGA process to best effect.  

Repeat the process for the following three scenarios.  Write out your GAGA solution for each one as fully as you need. You will be required to present your plan for one of them at the practical session. 

Problem Scenario 4
Halfway through a lesson, a client shouts for help – he’s dropped his paddle and it has sunk like a stone, disappeared completely!

Problem Scenario 5
One of your clients is clearly not right. Gone very quiet, looking pale, slowing down. You go to check on them, and they sit down and complain of headache…

Problem Scenario 6
Sudden strong headwinds – unexpected, unforecast. You have to get the group back to the launch site, UPWIND.  But first you have to navigate your  group of beginners (with a couple already struggling) around a headland that sticks out into the channel. The wind is really funnelling past it…


Be warned that you will encounter a ‘problem’ of some sort in your practical assessment! And you will be expected to follow the GAGA format as you deal with it.

When you feel comfortable with the overall approach to dealing with a problem, you may proceed to the next module.

Problems that might occur

Importance: Very High! This is a very important module because you almost certainly will encounter the occasional problem during your paddleboarding career. 

This lesson looks at the sort of issues that could arise during a SUP activity, which require some sort of intervention or a change of plan.  The lesson will take around 20 minutes to complete.

The training video discusses: 

  • What actually constitutes a problem
  • The various types of problem of problem that may occur
  • Their likelihood and significance. 

The variable nature of the environment we work in and the type of clients we tend to have, makes it statistically very likely that you’re going to – at very least – have to change or modify your plan from time to time. Or indeed you may have to deal with a full-blown emergency situation. And you’re going to have to deal with it yourself. You’re going to have to show leadership, make judgement calls, make decisions and solve problems.  So having a clear understanding of what might go wrong makes it much easier to predict problems and handle them when they arise.


Check Understanding!

  • Do you understand what we mean by a ‘problem’, and why it is of significance?
  • Can you recall the three main categories of problem?
  • Take a minute to recall as many of the ‘people problems’ as you can and consider how you would deal with them if they happened in a lesson you were leading.
  • Can you recall the three categories of environment problem?
  • Take a minute to recall as many of the weather related problems as you can, and consider how you would deal with them if they happened in a lesson you were leading.
  • Take a minute to recall as many of the equipment related problems as you can, and consider how you would deal with them if they happened in a lesson you were leading.

If you’re unsure on any of these, go back and review the lesson again. Otherwise, you can move on to the next lesson.

Safety Briefing

Importance: Critical! You will be required to deliver a safety briefing as part of your assessment.  

This lesson looks at the safety briefing(s) that must take place at the start of every session. This is an absolutely essential part of the process, and it’s important that the right things get said.  This lesson will take around 30 minutes to complete.

The training video discusses: 

  • Why we do the briefing
  • The various topics that should be covered
  • Briefing the other instructors and/or staff members. 
  • Practicing your briefing

You will be required to present a safety briefing at the practical session.  Download this template card and practice doing it – you can make it relevant to your own venue.  You may use the card as a prompt when delivering the briefing at the practical session (indeed, we highly recommend using prompts when delivering any safety briefings, no matter how well practiced you may be!).  

Here is a recording of a full safety briefing. It’s about 5 minutes long in total – 5 very valuable minutes that sets up your lesson and ensures the best possible safety outcomes for your clients. (Plus removing any embarrassment caused by clients losing hats, sunglasses or inadvertantly taking their carkeys onto the water!).

Remember, it doesn’t matter if you get things in the wrong order. All that matters is that you cover everything that needs to be said.

There will be no questions on the safety briefing in the written exam at the practical assessment.


Check Understanding!

  • Do you understand why we do the safety briefing?
  • Can you deliver a safety briefing? Remember, you will be required to demonstrate this at the practical session.
  • Do you understand what sort of things you should run through with other instructors or team members before the session?

If you’re unsure on any of these, go back and review the lesson again. Otherwise, you can move on to the next lesson.

Safety Planning

Importance: Very High! Proper planning is an absolutely vital part of safety management, and makes the whole process of preparing for a session much easier and more efficient. 

This lesson looks at the planning process for sessions on the water. It will take around 20 minutes to complete.

The training video discusses: 

  • Why we do the planning
  • How to do a venue analysis
  • What needs to be done in terms of planning before a session
  • What needs to be done when you arrive at the venue

Using checklists to ensure you have done everything that needs to be done is an extremely sensible approach. Even the most experienced instructor will from time to time forget something if relying purely on memory, and the consequences can range from mild inconvenience to extreme embarrassment!

Comprehensive checklists and processes should be part of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the operation. If you are an employee of an established  SUP Operation they should be able to supply you with checklists.  If you are running your own business, then we strongly recommend you set up your own checklists. Guides and templates for creating documentation including these checklists are available as part of the Paddle Business Set-Up & Management Course.

The written test at the practical assessment may include questions on planning a session.


Check Understanding!

  • Do you understand why prior planning is important?
  • Do you understand the general concept and importance of Venue Analysis, and the sort of things that should be noted?
  • Do you understand the sort of things you should be considering when planning a session
  • Do you know what to look for on the weather forecast, and why?
  • Do you understand how to prepare when you arrive at the venue?

If you’re unsure on any of these, go back and review the lesson again. Otherwise, you can move on to the next lesson.

The Legislative Framework for teaching SUP

Importance: Critical! This is a vital section of the course – very much for your own protection and understanding of your responsibilities under NZ law.

It’s essential that you fully understand the legal implications of working as a SUP instructor. This lesson will take around 15 minutes to complete.

When you take payment from clients – whether it’s for a lesson, tour or guided experience – you have created a workplace and you become subject to Health and Safety legislation.  You have legal responsibilities to your clients, other team members working with you, and anyone else that may be impacted by your work. 

This training video discusses:

  • Health and Safety Law
  • Understanding your working area & safety responsibilities
  • The legal concepts of Duty of Care and Negligence
  • How the legal framework changes for volunteer rather than paid instruction
  • Other legislation that may apply during your lessons

This may seem like tedious stuff, but it is really important that you fully understand your legal requirements and responsibilities. If something does go wrong,  ignorance of the law is never going to be an acceptable defence, indeed it’s actually more likely to make things worse.

Note:  If you are working as an employee of an organisation, then it is ultimately their responsibility to ensure that you are complying with legal requirements.  However, you also have a responsibility as an employee to comply. 

If you are running your own business, then you are responsible for creating and managing your own health and safety policies. More information on this is available in the Paddle Business Set-Up & Management Course.

The written test at the practical assessment may include questions on duty of care, the definition of a PCBU and the different categories of volunteer.


Check Understanding!

  • Do you understand what a PCBU is?
  • Do you understand what duty of care is?
  • Can you recall the four areas of duty of care that you have to your clients?
  • Do you understand what constitutes negligence?
  • Do you understand why you really don’t want to be found to be negligent?!
  • Do you understand the difference between a volunteer and volunteer worker?

If you’re unsure on any of these, go back and review the lesson again. Otherwise, you can move on to the next lesson.

Beginner Mistakes

Importance: Very High Understanding and knowing how to rectify the typical mistakes your clients will make is a vital and fundamental skill for the SUP instructor.

Learning to recognise the standard mistakes that beginners make is an essential aspect of L1 SUP Instruction. In this lesson we’ll look at the various faults and mistakes that you will see time and time again, and analyse why they matter, and what to do about them.

We’ll start by looking at the more serious mistakes, that need to be rectified straight away. This section of the lesson will take about 15 minutes to view.


Now we need to consider the less significant errors that you’ll encounter, and what to do about them. This video will take about 25 minutes to complete.

Hopefully you now have a good overall feel for the sort of beginner errors you’re going to be dealing with, and what you need to do about them.

The important take-aways from this are:

  • Beginners makes LOTS of mistakes!
  • Not all are of equal significance or importance.

Some mistakes need correcting immediately, because

  • They are likely to cause the client to fall
  • They are likely to cause injury to the client
  • They will cause that client to be very slow in comparison to everyone else

Others are less serious but, depending on how badly they are being displayed, may

  • prevent the client ever improving or developing
  • cause early fatigue