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Surf School Program

The Irish Surfing Association Surf School Program aims to promote best practice in the surf school industry on the island of Ireland. Surf Schools that commit to the program agree to abide by the Irish Surfing Association Surf School Standards (see standards outined below). When booking a surfing lesson we strongly advise the public to book with an Irish Surfing Approved School.





1. INSURANCE The school must have public liability insurance cover with a €13 million indemnity per claim for the business of operating a surf school. A copy of the school's insurance certification must accompany their application along with a letter from the insurer indemnifying the Irish Surfing Association LTD and Irish Water Safety. The school is required to immediately notify the Irish Surfing Association of any change, amendment or cancellation of their insurance policy.

2. INSTRUCTOR QUALIFICATIONS All instructors should hold a qualification appropriate to the level of surfing they are instructing. The school must verify and keep a record of qualifications on file e.g. a photocopy of instructor card. Where new instructors are employed during the approval year the Irish Surfing Association must be notified prior to the instructor taking up employment. A list of each school's instructors will be included on the Irish Surfing Association website with the school’s details.   • Irish Surfing Association Level 1 Surf Instructor A Level 1 Surf Instructor can instructor novice surfers. A novice surfer is defined as learning the basic skills- paddling, catching waves, popping-up, board control, turning and traversing white water. These skills are learned on soft boards in white water at beach breaks. The novice must be fully proficient at these skills before progressing on to a hard board and the next level.

• Irish Surfing Association Level 2 Surf Instructor A Level 2 Surf Instructor can instructor intermediate surfers. An intermediate surfer is defined as being fully proficient in white water and learning to paddle out back, take off on unbroken waves, ride in trim, generate speed and drive, bottom turn, top turn, cutback and floater. Intermediate surfers should be assessed on soft boards in white water to ensure they have the competency to move on to a hard board and intermediate skills.

• Trainee Instructor A trainee level 1 or 2 surf instructor has successfully attended a level 1 or level 2 surf instructor course but has to complete a specified number of hours instructing to complete their qualification. Trainee instructor must be supervised in the water by a fully qualified instructor of the appropriate level until they complete their qualification. The 1:8 instructor student ratio applies i.e. 1 qualified instructor supervising 1 trainee instructor may take a maximum of 8 students at any time.

A surf instructor is not qualified until they have completed and returned all course requirements and their instructor card has been issued by the Irish Surfing Association. NO CARD/ NO QUALIFICATION


A maximum 1:8 instructor/ student ratio will apply (with the exception of SUP where 1:2 ratio will apply in surf)

4. EQUIPMENT All surfing equipment use for hire or lesson must be made available for inspection.

• Wetsuits Appropriate wetsuits must be provided. During summer months (May to September inclusive) the minimum requirement is a full 3mm wetsuit with surf boots (other footwear is unacceptable and boots are not optional). During winter months (October to April inclusive) the minimum requirement is a full 5mm wetsuit with surf boots, gloves and hood.

• Leashes All boards must be equipped with suitable leashes.

• Maintenance All equipment must be constantly maintained -torn/ worn-out wetsuits, boots, gloves or damaged boards with holes/ exposed stringers etc. are not acceptable.

• Surfboards  Soft skinned surfboards must be used for novice surfers. Hard boards can be used by intermediate surfers/ Level 2 Instructors but only when it is clear that surfers are in complete control of their boards.

5. SAFETY EQUIPMENT • Coloured Lycra Vests Properly fitted coloured lycra vests, singlets or sports bibs (ideally branded with the surf school logo) must be supplied to students and instructors so they can easily identify each other -one colour for instructors and another colour for students. Where several schools operate at one location, schools should liaise with each other on colours to be used.

• Whistles Instructors must be supplied with a warning whistle to use in the water.

• Rescue Aids Suitable rescue aids must be available on the beach during lessons- rescue board (minimum 9ft) or rescue tube & swim fins.

• First Aid Kit A fully equipped first aid kit must be available on the beach.

• Communication A direct communication link (mobile phone/radio) must be available to instructors on the beach for emergency use.

6 LOCATION • Beaches Novice/ intermediate lessons should take place at beaches only.  

• Access Beaches used must be served by appropriate access and the surfing area should come within easy carry distance in event of accident/ emergency.

• Checkered Flags Where a surfing area is not designated by the local authority, the surf school must mark the lesson area with black and white checkered flags designating a surfing area while a lesson is in progress. Flags must not be left erected on the beach when a lesson is not in progress.  . • Hazards Instructors must be aware of the physical hazards at beaches and ensure their students are safe guarded against hazards (e.g. rips, rocks etc)

7 WEATHER, TIDES AND SURF CONDITIONS Activities must only take place in appropriate weather, tides and surf conditions. It is not acceptable to operate in hazardous conditions. The following conditions are considered hazardous for novice or intermediate lessons - wind speeds in excess of Force 5 (38km/h) and surf in excess of 1.5m. The tide can have a hazardous effect on a particular surf location. Lessons should not take place at hazardous tide times e.g. where a spring low tide exposes rocks or a spring high tide reaches rocks. 

Procedures for the appraisal of weather and tides must be included in the school’s Normal Operating Procedures. It is recommended that instructors carry a portable wind anemometer to measure and gauge wind speeds.

8 CHILD PROTECTION The Surf School must adhere to the Code Of Ethics And Good Practice in Children’s Sport in Ireland and to Children First. This includes appointing a designated officer, preparing and keeping updated a Keeping Children Safe Plan, Vetting and Training Staff and actively supporting staff to promote best practice in Child welfare and protection. The school must conduct an annual internal audit on compliance. 

9 SWIMMING As with any watersport anybody trying surfing should be able to swim. Surf schools must adhere to and promote the “be able to swim” rule to the public. It is irresponsible to promote the message that you do not need to be able to swim to go surfing. Irish Water Safety, the statutory body established to promote water safety in Ireland recommends that all persons engaged in surfing be able to swim. Surf Schools should ask candidates in advance of giving surf lessons if they can swim. If the candidate is not able to swim, then the surf school should advise the person to take swimming classes and return at a future date for surfing instruction.

10 HEALTH AND SAFETY The school must have a Health And Safety Plan that includes the following documents-

• Health And Safety Statement • Risk Assessment (Must be completed annually) • Normal Operation Procedures (NOP) • Emergency Action Plan (EAP) • Child Protection Policy • Recruitment Policy • Staff Training and Recruitment Records • Particpant Register or Booking Form

The above documents should be reviewed and updated regularly. The school must carry out an annual risk assessment. Risk assessment is fundamental to health and safety. See for support in completing Risk Assessment. The School must ensure all staff are fully trained on the above policies and procedures and that staff training records are kept up to date. 

11 BRANDING AND ADVERTISING Surf Schools are obliged to abide by the guidelines for use of the Irish Surfing Association Surf School Program Logo. Use of logo is permitted only in relation to surfing disciplines (surfing, bodyboarding, SUP). Schools must commit to a policy of honest and accurate advertising. 

12 SUP/ BODYBOARD  The following additional guidelines will apply to SUP and Bodyboarding:

SUP • A Level 1 Surf Instructor can instruct novice SUP. Novices should initially be instructed in flat water before moving into surf. A novice should display competency at paddling, turning and board control prior to moving into surf (paddling includes - prone with paddle stored, kneeling and standing up - with paddle).

• A maximum 1:8 instructor/ student ratio will apply to SUP on flat water. In surf a maximum 1:2 ratio will apply in surf. Instruction in surf must take place in an area free of other water users.

• Soft skinned or hard boards can be used on flat water. Soft skinned surfboards only to be used in surf.

• Buoyancy aid must be worn by students and instructors on flat water.

• The following conditions will be considered hazardous for SUP-

Flat Enclosed Water- Wind speeds over Force 4 (30km/h). Flat Open Water- Wind speeds over Force 3 (20km/h). Surf- Wind speeds over Force 3 (20km/h) and surf over 0.5m.

Bodyboard • A Level 1 Surf Instructor can instruct novice Bodyboard.  Properly fitted fins must be supplied and proper leashes must be used on all bodyboards. 

13 LOCAL AUTHORITIES Schools must adhere to any additional regulations advised by the local authority and all relevant beach bye laws. This includes co-operating with lifeguards, abiding by lifeguard flags and directions as requested.

14 HIRE V LESSON Hire is defined as the unsupervised temporary use of surfing equipment for reward.  Coloured vests may not be issued to customers hiring equipment. Any surfing activity delivered by a school where the person is either supervised or is issued with a coloured vest  shall be viewed as a lesson and instructor qualifications / ratio  and all other safety standards shall apply.

15 CERTIFICATION An Irish Surfing Association Surf School Program certificate will be issued to successful applicants. Schools must publicly display their certificate alongside copies of each surf instructor’s card and a copy of the 2014 Surf School Standards.   


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