ASI SUP instructor, Finn James loves life on the stunning, wildlife packed Stour river in East Anglia in the UK. We caught up with them to find out how they got into stand up paddle, their journey to becoming an ASI superstar instructor and how COVID has affected their life and business:
Hi Finn; tell us a bit about your background
“I have adored being close to water all my life. I learned to kayak on my local river (The Stour on the Essex/Suffolk border) as a Scout when I was a young teenager and fell in love with the river. Growing up I continued kayaking, swimming, fishing...with water becoming a lifelong passion”
How did you get started in stand up paddleboarding?
“I came to paddle boarding fairly late, wrongly assuming that I might find it boring. Oh how wrong I was!! The first time I stood up on a paddle board I was blown away by how much more you can see, both above the water and below it. Suddenly I could see down into the water, and on clear days, to the very bottom. I saw all the plants, the fish, so much life in the water. Paddle boarding had opened up a whole new world to me and that was underwater.
“I’ve since learned to snorkel and even got up close with some seals last summer at Lundy Island. Focusing above the surface I could see barn owls flying across fields, get the very last glimpses of a sunset or pick out landmarks in the distance.
I knew I wanted to show people this river I loved so much, and that paddle boarding would be a perfect way to do it. With that I started Reflective Adventures”
Why did you become an ASI qualified SUP instructor?
“When looking for a paddle boarding qualification I wanted something that was recognised, respected and thorough. ASI provided this and more. It wasn’t an easy course and that I’m glad of. It was in-depth, intense and enabled me to become a confident, robust instructor. I’m currently working towards my Level 2 Exposed water instructor qualification and hope to complete it in the spring. For me safety is very important, and safety is a big part of ASI training”
What sort of activities and services are you offering to your customers?
“Reflective Adventures has gone from strength to strength, offering private experiences by paddle board or kayak. For me, it is so much more than just teaching someone how to paddle board; it is showing them a world they might not have seen before. It’s introducing them to the river (yes, the same one from my childhood) that I fell in love with.
Everything is also bespoke...do they want to spot their first ever Kingfisher, or try a night time paddle, or maybe see a sunset from the water as a family.
I get a picture of what they are hoping for and then do my utmost to deliver that and more.”
What do you love about being an ASI SUP instructor?
“I’m so glad I chose ASI for my paddle boarding qualification path. I feel proud to wear my instructor t-shirt, because I know how hard I and every other instructor worked to earn it.
ASI has given me a very stable base from which to grow my business.”
How has COVID and related restrictions changed how you operate?
“Covid has impacted my business like everyone else in the UK. Currently in another lockdown I’m using the time to enjoy the water on my own. I’m lucky enough to live local to the coast so am using my daily exercise allowance to learn to surf.
As much as I am enjoying splashing around in the waves, I can’t wait to get back to business on the river.
Can you tell us about any funny stories or situations that have happened whilst instructing?
“Becoming an instructor has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only do I get to work from the most beautiful of offices, but I get to see such amazing things happen. I specialise in those who are nervous, or might have another perceived barrier such as age, disability or lack of swimming ability.
I have taught ages from 7 to late 70s, seen fears disappear, enabled those who thought they never could, watched families create memories, seen wonder on kids faces, awe on those of adults.
Of course there is then the nature and wildlife. Otters, kingfishers, bats, water voles, dragon flies, owls...I could go on and on.”
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, Finn. We wish you a wonderful and SUP packed 2021!
If you fancy becoming an ASI SUP instructor like Finn then click here to find out how to get started and make your dream job a reality!
ASI is a professional membership and training organisation and international governing body for instructors, coaches and schools in the outdoor recreation industry for surfing, stand up paddle and bodyboarding.
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