Managing a kite school can be a lot of work, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. It allows many passionate kiteboarders to combine their love of the sport with the ability to generate income. Registering your kite school with the IKO has many benefits that range from use of our platform to find Instructors to a great discount at the IKO shop, and so much more. But instead of telling you ourselves, we thought it would be better to let two kite school managers tell you more about what it’s like being a school manager, the benefits of being an IKO Affiliated Center, as well as some advice for anyone thinking of starting their own school!
Without further ado, meet Thilo Voges of boardway.org from Cologne, Germany and Berni Maginn of kitesurfuk.com from England! Both Thilo and Berni are kite Instructors and certified IKO Examiners turned IKO Affiliated Center managers.
What is it like managing a school and being self-employed?
Thilo Voges: You know this YouTube-series, "People are awesome"? That's what I learned - in a positive and in a negative way. I learned a lot about people's sensitivities, about my personal limits, discovered parts of my job where I needed training as well and other parts, where I used knowledge from my former job to find a solution. Being self employed gives me sort of freedom - I don't have to stick to common routines and can find and go my own way. I have a big freedom how and when I do my job, as long as it's done properly in the end. That's really great.
Berni Maginn: [The best part of being self-employed is] being in charge of your own destiny. You never stop learning or growing. For me it was life changing. Meeting people from all walks of life, giving them a fantastic experience and seeing them leave you with a new skill and passion. Kitesurfing has literally changed the lives of many of my students, and I am so proud of being part of that.
What is a typical working day in the life of a kite school manager?
TV: My main job is to keep everybody happy, both customers and my team. To do so, I start with a forecast-check around 8:00am, check the schedule for students and instructors. I make sure everything is up and running and then meet with the team at 9:30am. Have a coffee, discuss the spot for the day, organize the groups and listen to the problems and ideas of my team. At 10:00am our students arrive, the team takes over. At this point, I just meet and greet students and customers. In case unexpected students pop up, I'll get my wetsuit and give a lesson myself.
BM: Check the wind!! My wife Zoe, who is also an instructor, manages the admin side of the business, so she will tell me if we have any lessons. We check the wind and the tide, and confirm with our students. I will prepare all the equipment and meet them at the beach for the lesson, and Zoe will come down too if we have more students - we prefer to teach in a ratio of 2:1, so if there are 4 students, we will both teach. I then am in charge of cleaning and repairing any equipment while my wife cooks the dinner! It works pretty well!
Why become an IKO Affiliated Center?
TV: Before we affiliated to the IKO network, our center was affiliated with the KSA, which is not that known around the globe. We compared the safety standards, the organizations, the appearance, the acceptance, the fees, the lesson plans and the benefits of IKO, KSA and VDWS and decided without much hesitation to run the center under the IKO flag in the future. The crucial point was the safety standard - we couldn't find something as good within the other organisations. Now we're affiliated since 2013, our team consisted of 13 instructors in 2016, run 5 ITCs this year and are positively looking forward towards the next years as IKO center.
BM: Worldwide recognition, with high quality standards, and great opportunities for instructors.
What advice would you give a kite Instructor that wants to open a kitesurf school?
TV: Go for it! But make sure you realize the restrictions and responsibilities as the one managing the spot, the students, the Instructors, the equipment and the whole center. It's a real challenge - I definitely wouldn't like to miss it, but it's for sure more than just easy living at the beach. If you find time for a nap in the hammock, great - but make sure that this isn't your main intention! I've seen many Instructors dreaming of the surfer's life at the beach - running a center is really a hard job, make sure you are aware of this...
BM: Do it! It can be hard work, but it’s worth it.
Overall, owning and running a kite school is hard but rewarding work, and affiliating with the IKO can make that work even easier. Not only is the IKO the largest kiteboard training organization in the world, that recognition provides quality assurance for students that schools can’t get anywhere else. IKO Affiliated Centers can give students IKO Member Cards which are useful in order to kite on some beaches or to continue to progress in another IKO Center. IKO Affiliated Centers also receive exclusive access to services like promotional and advertising support, as well as giving schools the opportunity to organize special clinics, Coach Courses, Assistant and Instructor Training Courses.