A sneak peak into Tatty’s Outdoor Instructor Training journey last year…
The start of November sees the launch of this year’s Outdoor Instructor Training course and it’s fair to say I’m a little bit jealous. It was such an awesome way to spend the winter last year - not only did I come away with a vast range of qualifications and a job but I also made some great friends and experienced some of the best adventures that Dorset has to offer.
I’d quite happily do the whole course again but instead I’ve taken some time to reminisce through my journal and share a few excerpts…
Sunday 28th October 2018
Day zero of Outdoor Instructor Training (OIT) with Land & Wave in Swanage. This morning I felt a mix of excitement and nerves. When we got our kit, it was like Christmas had come early! I’m all unpacked and have plenty of space. Met some nice people so far and look forward to coasteering tomorrow…
Monday 29th October 2018
Official first day of OIT and what a day! Clear blue skies and sunshine; b-e-a-utiful! Filled up with porridge + eggs on toast + tea ready for a whole day of coasteering! One of the quickest to get my wetsuit on (although much slower trying to get it off!). Went to Hedbury in the morning and Dancing Ledge in the afternoon, with a perfect picnic spot for lunch. Today was a chance to see how a session is led and practice our personal skills: deep water & shallow dives, swimming, conserving energy, climbing, using the waves to help, negotiating the caves and also jumping! Managed a tricky 6m and a big 8m jump plus a front flip from Freestyle Ledge. Awesome first day!
Tuesday 30th October 2018
Day 2 and I woke up this morning feeling very tired and pretty achey. I’m also covered in bruises (more acquired today) but despite all this, I am HIGH ON LIFE! And fresh air and vitamin SEA :-)
Friday 2nd November 2018
Another beautifully sunny but pretty chilly day, but we soon warmed up and even sat to eat our lunch in just t-shirts! Today we went canoeing along the River Frome from Wareham. We practiced paddling and turning before heading along the river (towards Poole) for a 6km round trip. We learned about different paddles and how to get the right size. During the day we practiced different strokes: sweep, draw and bow and stern rudders. We also practiced solo paddling, edging (leaning the boat) and using the gunwales and thumbs down rudder. It was also a great day getting to know each other and our instructors. When we got back to Wareham, we tested our drysuits and capsized. Like kayaking, I was super nervous but it was smooth and I was back in the canoe very quickly. One of my fave days! In the evening we went to watch the fireworks at Swanage & Wareham RFC (rugby club) and I enjoyed a hot mulled wine as a treat for surviving (and loving!) the first week!
Sunday 4th November 2018
Lie-in this morning then a bit of DLOG (digital logbook used to track our activities, routes and conditions) time before brunch. Weather miserable (wet rain!) so I did the homework whilst others went walking or climbing. Had to read a 24 page doc on Water Safety Awareness then attempt a self-study questionnaire - much harder than anticipated. Took a break to go for a swim and walk into town. Picked up some more painkillers and multivitamins! Looking forward to coasteering tomorrow. Bring on week two!
Monday 5th November 2018
How quickly a week has gone! Today we went coasteering and our group were lucky enough to try out a new area of the Jurassic coastline. Winspit doesn’t have big jumps like Dancing Ledge but it was a great opportunity for us to see how to approach a new area. We talked about CLAP (Communication, Line of Sight, Avoidance, Positioning), hand signals, progressive sessions, entry & exit points and got plenty of opportunity to play.
Wednesday 7th November 2018
Nick & Sam from Voyager came to talk to us about job opportunities. They run school trips in France and Spain. Looks fun - fab locations! After lunch we headed to Dorset Water Park to practice in water rescues for our second day of water safety training. Great fun being both the casualty and the rescuer. I need to practice re-throws after re-coiling. Nailed it straight from the bag though! We also did a practice rescue swim - should also practice that more too.
Friday 9th November 2018
Two days of Outdoor First Aid and now officially qualified! Apparently the course used to be a 220 page slideshow (death by PowerPoint?!) but thankfully Owen and Sophie make it a very practical, hands on course so we spent most of our time outside going through scenarios. We discussed ways of summoning help and what should be in an outdoor first aid kit, in addition to all the usual stuff. We went through DR ABC code (Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing and Circulation) and the signs & symptoms of shock. We practiced how to do CPR and also how to use a defibrillator. On day 2, we practiced treating injuries with fake blood, lots of props and some overacting! During the rest of the course, they’ll be testing us with random scenarios. Practice and repetition are very important. On Thursday evening, we had a talk from Sam about the importance of looking after yourself and discussed nutrition, stretching, warming up and cooling down. On Friday evening, Ash from Reach Outdoors in Paignton, Devon came to talk to us about jobs.
Sunday 11th November 2018
Can’t believe two weeks have passed already. Such a nice feeling not having Sunday blues and actually looking forward to Monday and the week ahead!
Monday 12th November 2018
Drove to the New Forest today for a good walk and lots of navigation practice. We were meant to go coasteering but it’s too windy. Practiced taking bearings and using action points, overshoot points and map references. Also recorded our pace and used this later to help with navigation to points. We took it in turns to lead the group and also had to practice relocating on the map. A lovely day out, despite the showers, although I was exhausted by the time we got back.
Tuesday 13th November 2018
Woke up to a beautiful sunny morning with blue skies; a perfect day on the water. It was too windy to kayak on the sea so we headed to the River Frome at Wareham. As we were kitting up, Matt our instructor bought us some doughnuts and jam tarts - great start! Once we got on the water, I quickly got frustrated with my inability to paddle in a straight line - very much at the stage of conscious incompetence! Had a lot of help and advice from Matt, and some more practice, and eventually started to improve. They say practice makes perfect but Matt says it’s actually practice makes permanent. Over the course of the day, we practiced different strokes and techniques. During our 360 turns, I was a bit enthusiastic with edging and capsized! Haha! Thank goodness for drysuits. As the afternoon wore on, my mood improved along with my paddling. Despite being very tired, I headed to the pub for a pint with a few others.
Wednesday 14th November 2018
Clear blue skies and sunshine; a perfect day for paddling. As a group we discussed the weather forecast (southerlies, force 4, gusting force 5) and agreed that a paddle to Brownsea Island, with shelter from Studland, would be a good plan. And how right we were! An amazing day on the water. I felt so much more comfortable in the kayak.
Thursday 15th November 2018
Another day of kayaking - can’t believe this is going to be my job?!
Monday 19th November 2018
Today we were meant to be coasteering but it was too windy so we swapped with Friday’s activity of Team Building. We started by playing a game led by Alex that highlighted people are the most important part of the outdoor industry. They are the product as well as the beneficiary and you have to adapt and cater accordingly. We spent the first part of the morning playing games and experiencing which ones might be more appropriate for different age groups. Then we discussed what makes a great instructor before pairing off and planning a game for our sample group. In the afternoon we looked at facilitation and open versus closed questions.
Tuesday 20th November 2018
We headed off to Blandford with hats and hot flasks for a day of canoeing. The temperature could be described as ‘Baltic’ but I didn’t get cold with my thermal fleece onesie plus base layer under my drysuit! We didn’t have a particularly long stretch of river to paddle on but for the first proper solo paddle there was plenty to work on! On the way back, we checked out a couple of places we might to journey to over the next two days. Back at base, Sophie gave a presentation on the job opportunities at Land & Wave. Need to update my CV and apply ASAP!
Wednesday 21st November 2018
Woke up to torrential rain and freezing temperatures - gonna be wet and chilly on the water. Lovely paddle on the Piddle which included a catch-up with my mentor Mel. “Keep on doing what you’re doing: hands-on, enthusiastic and happy!” Yay! Today’s paddle was a battle against wind and waves, with a pummelling from huge icy hailstones, finishing off with a chilly capsize & rescue practice. This evening, we had a kayak rolling session in the pool with Mel. After almost two hours, and a lot of water up the nose, I finally nailed a kayak roll! Yay! Stuffed my face at dinner then updated my CV. Think I will sleep well tonight…
Monday 26th November 2018
Lowland Leader training Day 1 with Gav. Beautiful sunny day and sadly we were stuck in the classroom. However, it was actually super useful and luckily Gav was a funny and engaging trainer. We discussed kit lists, planning, group aims, duty of care as well as the Lowland Leader scheme.
Wednesday 28th November 2018
Spent the morning practicing rescues and scenarios with throw lines in Swanage Bay. Spent the afternoon in the pool practicing towing and water exits for casualties with a spinal injury or unconscious. Really useful stuff. Finished the session with a swim test: 200m with a buoyancy aid.
Thursday 29th November 2018
Today’s activities: Pioneering and Raft Building on the lakes at Dorset Water Park. First task was to build a friction bridge using 9 poles - wonder if I’ll be able to remember? Would be good to practice with some matchsticks or spaghetti?! Next we had to build a tripod and a triangle to create a freestanding tower that we could all stand on - success! We built a second one of these, which then created a frame for our catapult! In the afternoon, we built and tested different types of rafts and finished the session discussing different ideas for games and obstacle courses. In the evening we had a talk from Dave on Psychology in the Outdoors - very interesting.
Friday 30th November 2018
It’s December tomorrow and this morning at breakfast, we were discussing the need for suncream today! Beautiful winter’s day - didn’t feel cold - perfect day for a paddle. Today felt like a proper journey and I think I earned my beer tonight with a film!
Monday 3rd December 2018
Feeling on top of the world! It's the start of Week 6 which means I'm a third of the way through. How time flies! Today I challenged my fear of heights and went climbing for the first time - worth it with views like this! Every day I'm learning something new, pushing myself a little bit further out of my comfort zone and enjoying the fresh air and being active. It isn't always sunny but it's always rewarding and one of the best decisions I've made.
Tuesday 11th December 2018
First day of bushcraft training: knives + fire + in the woods + sunshine = Best. Day. Ever! Such a chilled day but also mentally stimulating, learning how to carve wood and build fire. There is something very therapeutic about it; perhaps it’s the primitive nature, and the simplicity of going back to basics. In the morning we made fire darts and feather sticks, learning how to use our knives. Then we started fire lighting using flint & steel - so happy that I made fire! It was pretty tricky but I was determined and got there in the end. After lunch (bacon on the fire!), we continued firelighting with different methods: birch bark, King Alfred’s cakes (cramp balls) and natural tinder bundles. We also had a competition to build a fire with different methods. Finished the day learning how to toast the perfect marshmallow and build s’mores (melted marshmallow wedged between two Chocolate Digestives!). Can’t wait for tomorrow!
Wednesday 12th December 2018
Day 2 of Bushcraft and our first task was to build a fire in pairs, using just our knives and ferrous rods. Ollie and I set about collecting our materials: birch bark, matchstick sized twigs for kindling and some larger pencil-sized kindling. Ours was one of the only groups to get it lit on our first attempt so we were pretty chuffed with that. Next, we moved onto friction fire lighting, starting with hand drills and then with bow drills. Patience was key here and it’s easy to get frustrated. We used hazel and elder scales, with a clematis hearth board but that was too hard and we had more success with punk birch. With bow drills we made smoke but no fire, so will have to continue our efforts tomorrow. No bacon for lunch today but I did wrap my banana in foil and stuffed it with chocolate, so that was a sweet, chocolatey, sticky success! Evening workshop on presentation skills was useful and funny.
Wednesday 19th December 2018
Hanging out at The Project Climbing Centre and working on technique with expert advice from Paul. Can’t believe we are halfway through the training course and it’s almost Christmas!
Saturday 12th January 2019
Learning to ‘trad’ climb (short for ‘traditional’ climbing where you have to place your own gear in the rocks to protect you from falling)) and abseiling in Dartmoor.
Tuesday 15th January 2019
Awesome indoor climbing session today - 7 lead climbs and I even managed to break one of the holds! Ooops
Monday 28th January 2019
No Monday Blues here today! Sunshine, sea kayaks and surfing! Only 4 weeks left of Outdoor Instructor Training with Land & Wave - how time flies when you’re having fun!
Tuesday 29th January 2019
Today I was scared and panicked.
It was my first time paddling on whitewater and not long into it, I got stuck on a rock and capsized. I tried to roll but didn’t have the strength and ended up stuck upside down in my boat, struggling to get my spray deck off and then getting my foot stuck before escaping from my kayak and swimming to the bank. It only lasted a few seconds but felt much longer. With Alex’s help & support, I was back in my boat and ready to tackle the next drop. Adrenalin was pumping and with cheers from my awesome group, I did it! And was rewarded with a high-5 from Alex! It’s OK to get scared and it’s even better to push yourself out of your comfort zone as long as you’re safe.
23rd February 2019
There were no more journal entries in February as I was too busy concentrating on final training sessions and assessments. On the last day of the course we celebrated with a chilly swim at sunrise! 15 weeks. 15 qualifications. Best. Winter. Ever.
Note from Land & Wave: Tatty was offered a job for the 2019 season April - November and has been an amazing outdoor instructor. She has project managed school trips, been an amazing role model for young and old and brought a tear to many people's eyes at the end of season party, with a beautiful speech about the importance of being happy and doing what you love.