As kayaking instructors, we take on the roll of “salesperson” as much as or even more than we do the roll of “instructor”. I like using the metaphor of sales, because we are in a unique position in which students pay money for you to introduce them to the sport. If you don’t do a good enough job “selling” the sport of kayaking on the first day, they won’t enjoy themselves and move on to another sport. This is your only chance to help develop a passion for the sport you love.
To be an effective salesperson, we sometimes need to go back to what originally attracted you to kayaking. Think back before you actually tried the boat for the first time, standing on shore or looking at photos in a magazine, what was it that interested you? What images went through your head when you pictured yourself in a boat for the first time? Was it the boats shape? Was it the look of gracefulness on the water? Was it the idea of independence; that you didn’t need another partner in your boat like in a canoe?
Ask ten people why they picked kayaking over, say archery or sailing, and you will get ten different answers.
Naturally, as time goes on, instructors can easily lose touch with those initial dreams or ideas. As your skills grow; your motivations or the aspects that keep you interested in the sport will change. Maybe you got into kayaking because you liked the idea of being able to get out there camping with a different vehicle then before. As time goes on, you also discover that you can also surf or practice rescues in really big water.
To be successful as a kayak salesperson/instructor, find out from your students at the beginning of a lesson why they are here. Why did they choose kayaking over, say, sailing? By probing the “why”, you can tailor your lesson so you will cover the many areas of their initial attraction and effectively sell your sport.
Just remember that the reasons that you got into the sport initially are not the only reasons out there. Everybody brings their own preconceived notions and ideas and it is up to you to inspire them at their level so they may attain those dreams. With that, you might have them hooked for life.