WHERE'S YOUR SENSE OF ADVENTURE?
If you hate the idea of being chained to a desk from nine to five for the rest of your working life, then why not try a career in adventure tourism like KATIE HARRIS? Not only does this 20-year-old Waterford native get to spend every day on the water during the summer at Dunmore Adventure, she is also free during the off-season to travel the world and brush up on her surfing skills.
A CAREER ON THE WATER
Katie Harris has always been a ‘water baby’, and little wonder; growing up around her parents’ waterpark and adventure tourism business, she had plenty of opportunity to make a splash. And so, despite fluttering with the idea of a careerin social care, this former competitive swimmer quickly found herself back in the water doing what she loves best after school.
‘I started a course in social care but I soon realised it wasn’t for me,’ Katie explains. ‘I loved the idea of combining my passion for outdoor pursuits with health and social care but as I got into the course I saw that wasn’t a viable option.’
Determined to pursue watersports as a career, Katie headed to Plas Menai Outdoor Academi near the Isle of Anglesey in Wales to gain qualifications; spending four months training to be an instructor in sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, powerboating and stand up paddle boarding. It was a great programme, and with her new qualifications under her belt she stayed on at the centre to gain further experience.
LIFE ON THE WATER
Katie now applies her skills as an instructor to the family business. Dunmore Adventure, nestled on the shoreline of Dunmore East in Co Waterford, is one of Ireland’s top attractions for watersports, featuring the country’s biggest Wibit Wipeout Water Park, sailing, windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding, cave exploring and lots more.
Although the centre offers land-based pursuits, you’ll find Katie out on the water all day long. ‘On any given day I could be sailing, windsurfing, paddle boarding or supervising the Wibit. I am happiest when I’m working on the water-based activities. Even on my days off I head to the beach!’
The all-important summer season begins in April, with school tours and corporate events kicking off as soon as the weather warms. During the peak months of June, July and August, Katie’s day starts at 8am, often running until 8pm in the evening. ‘It’s a long day and it’s physical work so it can be tiring, but it’s a lot of fun. There are 40 of us working in the centre and the numbers are growing all the time as it’s so busy. People really love the aqua park.’
It’s not all fun and games however, andthere is a serious side to the business. Safetyis paramount with adventure tourism and you need to have a firm grasp of health and safety rules and regulations and a cool head in order to be able to handle any situation that arises. ‘If you love outdoor activities and you’re drawn to the water, then a career in watersports is definitely for you. But while you can enjoy it and have fun, you have to have a positive attitude, be safe and know how to deal with the customer,’ Katie advises.
Though the summers are busy, the upside toa seasonal business is that you have plenty of time to relax and unwind over the winter months. ‘Our season starts to wind down in October so you get to rest from November until the spring. Although my parents will still have some work to do overseeing the maintenance and planning for the next year, it is at a much gentler pace.’
TIME TO SURF
When she hangs up her paddle at the end of the season Katie plans to spend the winter in Tenerife brushing up on her surfing skills. ‘I’ve been working hard throughout the summer in order to save money so that I can take a few months off at the end of the year. My goal is to not work for a few months, but the great thing is that as an instructor I should easily be able to pick up some work while travelling if money starts running out.’
While Katie sees herself taking over the family business in the future, for the next few years she plans to combine summer work with winter travel. ‘I want to get more instructor qualifications and travel as much as possible. Hawaii is my dream destination as there is great surf there and plenty of watersports.’
Wherever her surfboard takes her there’s one thing for sure; Katie is living her dreams. ‘I could never see myself sitting in an office all day long so this is definitely the career for me.’