Impact Award for watersports trainer Jamie Johnson

Spotlight on first-ever recipient of awards recognising those who go above and beyond to support activities afloat in Wales
22 Apr 24

RYA Cymru Wales Performance Manager Sarah McGovern (left) presents an Impact Award to Jamie Johnson (centre) who is flanked by CEO James Stuart (right) with Plas Menai branded wall as a backdrop.

Dedicated watersports instructor Jamie Johnson has been recognised in the RYA Cymru Wales Impact Awards after delivering activities at Plas Menai across four decades.

Jamie is the first person to be honoured by the new Impact Awards, which have been introduced by the sport’s governing body in Wales to recognise individuals and organisations who make a difference by going above and beyond to support activities afloat.

Jamie became a watersports instructor in his early 20s and worked at Plas Menai National Outdoor Centre from 1986 until retiring as its chief instructor in December 2023, and was nominated for an Impact Award by colleagues in recognition of his outstanding contribution to watersports.

RYA Cymru Wales Interim CEO James Stuart said: “Jamie has been a stalwart of the National Outdoor Centre and not only given four decades worth of service but had a cascade of impact from that service, inspiring people from their very first experiences right the way through to some of the most senior instructors and trainers across the country.”

Jamie, aged 64, of Llanfair Pwllgwyngyll, is now looking forward to continuing to work in the sport as an RYA instructor trainer and inspector.

Having developed his love of the outdoors as a pupil at St David’s College in North Wales, and with a passion for windsurfing, Jamie started his career working for a Sport Wales initiative to get unemployed people more active.

As a windsurfing, dinghy sailing, kayak and waterski instructor, he said: “The thought of getting paid to play was my dream job when it came along.”

Old photo showing Jamie Johnson windsurfing in breeze and waves during a Windsurf Trainers Course at Plas Menai 1989.

Jamie subsequently became a windsurf, powerboat and personal watercraft trainer for the RYA, helping others to likewise qualify as instructors.

“I’ve found it rewarding because when you’re coaching people to become an instructor it is far reaching beyond that because they then go out and teach other people, so the industry has people coming through who love what they do and then they inspire others.

“I also just think that the outdoor industry in general allows people a different platform to shine and to succeed because it’s not academic, it’s skill based. The water allows you to achieve.”

Paying tribute to his colleagues, Jamie added: “Thank you to all the amazing inspirational people I have shared my work journey with.  I learnt so much from them as mentors, colleagues, and friends.  These people made this work journey the best possible through their humour, commitment to training and professionalism.”

Together on our Waters

The Impact Awards coincide with a new five-year strategy for the sport in Wales - Gyda’n Gilydd ar ein Dyfroedd - Together on our Waters – which aims to get more people on the water, more often, by creating a connected, inspired and inclusive Welsh sailing and boating community.

Steve Morgan, Head of Operations at Plas Menai, said: "Jamie was a key part of Plas Menai for all of the years that he was here. The centre, its workings and its ethos, has been shaped by Jamie over the years.

“With his knowledge, high standards, attention to detail and dedication, the centre and its staff always felt in safe hands. We were proud to call him our Chief Instructor and know that he will continue to be a great influence to all that work with him in future." 

Old group photo taken at Plas Menai on 1986 Trainee Instructor Course with Impact Award winner Jamie Johnson on the back row in group of 10.

Trainee Instructor Course at Plas Menai, 1986 (Jamie Johnson in red, back row) © Plas Menai

Growing opportunities

At clubs, training and outdoor centres across the UK there are instructors who qualified at Plas Menai, many of whom were taught by Jamie, who has seen a growth in opportunities over the years for anyone wanting to work in the outdoor office provided by watersports.

“I don’t think when I started it was a career path but it most definitely is now,” explained Jamie. “There are ways into working on the water that didn’t exist that much when I started, like superyachts for example, and with new developments in the sport like foiling.”

“The industry draws in a lot of free-thinking people with a high skill level who can achieve quite quickly and the ones who succeed the best are those that throw themselves into it, so if you’re not teaching it, you should be out doing it. In other words it becomes your life.

“The focus is to help people become competent participants and practitioners of the activity first, and then develop the communication-based skills of delivery and working with people, which are transferable from being an instructor to other jobs as well.”

Find out more

Would you like to become an RYA instructor or trainer to inspire others to enjoy watersports? Find out more about training at Plas Menai National Outdoor Centre or explore how you can develop your skills as a volunteer or for your career with RYA instructor pathways and opportunities.

Do you know an individual or organisation that goes the extra mile to support activities on the water in Wales? The RYA Cymru Wales Impact Awards recognise the hard work of individuals and organisations including participants, staff and volunteers; instructors, coaches and race officials; clubs, classes and training centres.

Read more and nominate for our RYA Cymru Wales Impact Awards.

Picture of RYA Cymru Wales Impact Award - wooden dragon logo and words 'IMPACT AWARDS' on a wooden block with RYA Cymru Wales logo, taken outside with view of beach, rocks and coastline in the background.