Meet an Outdoor Recreation Guide

Interviews with real people in real roles across our industry.

Name: Dave Payne
Role: Outdoor Recreation Guide at Paramount Adventure Centre, Gold Coast
Qualifications: Certificate IV in Outdoor Recreation (now called Outdoor Leadership),  Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.

Interested in finding out more about a career as an Outdoor Recreation Guide? Read our Career Guide.

Q&A with Dave Payne

What first interested me about getting involved with outdoor recreation is that I am a very active person. My career prior to this was carpentry, so I loved working outdoors. I had a passion for outdoor recreation activities, most notably surfing. It turns out I was lured into the opportunities that came my way. This made it possible for me to start my business and break into the industry.

It was really through the introduction to climbing gyms in Australia. I moved up to the Gold Coast in 1991 and saw an opportunity to start a climbing gym. My building background assisted me and my family to start that business.

Starting out there wasn’t a huge demand for qualifications when we first got into the industry, but it’s definitely evolved and we’ve been very conscientious of ensuring that we do follow a proper pathway for education. 


I gained a certificate IV in Outdoor Recreation (now called Outdoor Leadership) and then went on to complete my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. We’re focused on supporting and encouraging people to get vet qualifications.

To ensure we have a great day, we make sure that we don’t have any hiccups in our programming. Planning’s our key thing. If we have a session in a couple weeks, we’ll be making sure our numbers are right and all of our equipment is ready. If I’ve got big groups, I’ll be making sure I’ve got the right type and amount of instructors. Then we’re picking up equipment with our trailers and vans. We also need permits to be able to operate in our locations. 

Once we meet our groups, we then go into our standard lesson program. Most of the time we are dealing with beginners, so we go through our key safety roles before progressing into the water. 

Our three main objectives during a session are safety, fun, and learning.

The area that I do enjoy the most is surfing. Teaching surfing is truly enjoyable. We get a lot of tourists and young kids who come to us for lessons. They just have so much fun. Being a passionate surfer, you get to see that first ‘stoke’. I really enjoy getting involved in it and seeing that progression of people learning to surf.

Our role isn’t just on the beach, in the creeks, or out bushwalking. We do a lot of work in the office. There’s a lot of risk management that we have to deal with. Working with clients and finding new business through marketing and advertising is another big thing. Just like any other business, we’ve got to be the master of all things. We focus on being able to plan as best as we can and keeping a good rapport with our existing clients.

What satisfies me is being able to see the development of people who want to get into the career, develop skills, and eventually become really good instructors themselves. I’ve dealt with hundreds of staff, trained them up, and seen them progress to further careers. 

There’s satisfaction through using outdoor recreation as an incredibly good tool to develop personal and communication skills.

A lot of people see the outdoor recreation industry as this fun, glamorous, cruisey role. Although it is an amazing environment to work in, you must commit to and understand the responsibilities involved. 

My advice to people who want to work in the industry would be to make sure you understand the responsibilities and to have a good work ethic.

People think they need to be technically proficient at whatever activities they want to instruct. Obviously, you need to be confident and competent when instructing the basics of surfing, climbing, or abseiling, but the key factor is being a good communicator. Being in a position where you enjoy working with people, you have got to be confident in front of them. The great thing about what we do is that we see students develop their skills really quickly because they’re in front of other people all the time.

There’s so much to be gained out of personal development with the outdoor recreation industry: I can’t encourage people enough to consider outdoor recreation. If you’ve got an inkling to get involved in the industry, it’s something really worthwhile and very rewarding.

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