Tipping your instructor? (how much?)

How much do you tip your kayaking instructor? Is it based on how much you paid for the class, the number of students, the length of the class, the service given, or all of the above??

When going out to a restaurant it’s easy, 20% of the bill. (that’s right, isn’t it??) =)~

But how much do you tip when taking kayak lessons?

For reference, most of the courses around here are between $89 & $95, and the class I’m concerned with in particular will be just me (probably), $89, and 2 1/2 hours long. (in a pool).

Anyone know any rules of thumb, or is this sort of tipping just something you have to play by ear?


Have I been guilty of being cheap? I guess I always assumed they got a large portion of my class fees and never thought about tipping.

tip the guide
usually 10 dollars per person for a half day trip–maybe more for a full day

Never heard about tipping an instructor
May be in some other areas or countries… The classess I’ve taken locally we did not even think of that… Perhaps because the ones I took were organized by small outfits and all the money I presume either gets directly to the instructor who “owns” the class and the outfit, or most of the money goes to the “guest” instructor who the owner of the outfit has invited…

Go out for a drink or dinner after calss, may be all chip in to cover the instructor’s share of the table -:wink:

yes if service is good
I gave a tip both times I took a class, probably around 15-20%, same as at a restaraunt.

If I hadn’t been happy with the class, I might not have tipped, but I have always been happy with the instructors.

Sometimes they are employees of the shop offering the class, sometimes they are contractors who have a ‘real’ job during the week.


– Last Updated: May-04-09 10:48 PM EST –

How long and how large were your classes, Dave?

I was thinking $10 for a 2 hour, $90 rolling class consisting of just me and the instructor.

One class had 6 folks, all day, another had 4 folks, all day.

I’m an A.C.A. Cert. Instr…NO TIP
90 dollars for 2 hours in a pool ???

You pay me to teach you… I do

You pay me to be nice to you… I am

Reading between these two lines, where/how did I earn the TIP ?

Ifn you offer a beer after class…GREAT

p.s. I charge 160 dollars per student FOR A TWO DAY class

Thank you
Thanks for bringing back sanity to this.

Me too, but I’ll take tips
My reply to that question is that while I am not expecting a tip they are appreciated. Don’t feel like you must tip, but if an instructor provides extra support; goes out of their way to make your day special, then tipping their professionalism and personal attention is definitely acceptable.

Tip amounts are rarely percentages, but rather round currencies. $5, $10, $20, $30, . . . Anything that a few bills can create.

On a 2.5 hour course, a $10 tip would appear real classy, especially if the instructor wasn’t expecting it. Now if the course was being held on a resort where everyone including the guy who opens your car door expects a tip, $10 may not elect the same reaction.

Course fees are for running the courses. ACA and other certification guarantees the instructor competency, but not the experience you as a participant will have. Good instructors may deserve a little extra, bad certified instructors will at least be held to a standard that’s higher than most.

second that

i am with jay on this one sanity
The reason I tip generously for waiters is that the profession is vastly underpaid in most settings and as a rule those folks are usually exploited in terms of pay equity.

Although I have heard it said that one is not likely to grow rich becoming a kayak instructor, instruction, clinics, and such are professionally run. That is the fees are set usually by the instructor and her-his assistants.

So all is known in advance.

I, myself, when instructing really do not wish for tips. It actually muddies the waters I feel. I give 100% in terms of safety, education and such. My reward is that the person returns for more instruction and I get to see them develop, in itself a great payment.

I think the exception to this matter of tipping is for instructors working for a store or large business where they may be getting a rather meager salary. Here, I think I would discuss with them how important a tip might be for them to be able to make a decent wage and living. Then I would definitely tip and generously.

tips are…
nice, but in kayaking circles, NOT expected. Kayakers are too cheap.

I’ve seen folks tip a buck for a freaking Starbuck’s coffee and then NOT tip for a 7-day all inclusive, 7-day guided kayak trip, where I made freakin coffee for 'em everyday!

I’ve also received very nice 10-20% tips for instruction/guiding.

If the instructor did a great job and you want to make 'em feel ‘real good’ throw 'em a few $$$ and a BIG thank you.


unfortunately so
Thanks for being so forthright. There is a hidden disparity in services rendered and pay received in the world of kayaking. These are super touchy issues. Hope I did not obscure this by my earlier reply.

In some ways the professional certification movement has been to address quality of instruction but also to address these pay equity problems. It is more than being cheap, it reflects a combination of not valuing safety, skills, and educator ability, i.e., witness how teachers get paid less than many professions requiring less training and less responsibility and class differences, i.e., a large number of kayakers have discretionary spending capacity and may view instruction as a service industry akin to how nannies are paid glaringly low wages.

Perhaps all instructors could view themselves like the Dog Whisperer fellow on TV. We rehabilitate paddlers but we train people to develop themselves beyond the concrete skill sets they ask for. If paddlers understood just how much instructors offer and instructors themselves realized how valuable they are, we might be able to demand commensurate pay.

Tipping your instructor?
“Tipping your instructor?”

Absolutely, certainly, they are authority figures after all and thus have it coming - however, only provided they are in front of you and won’t see it coming, and assuming it is near enough to the end of the course where they won’t be able to retaliate.

“(how much?)”

Well, that’s harder to say. Ideally, lightly enough that you can plausibly claim it was an accident, and only enough to make them capsize slowly, helplessly, with that sad look in their eye of too-late recognizing betrayal from a quarter they did not expect.

Different ways to tip

– Last Updated: May-05-09 11:52 AM EST –

My husband and I didn't know at first that tips are common for kayak instruction. We started tipping after we found out.

I asked this question of a group of fellow students after some lessons. Their answers varied quite a bit:

* If teacher owns the business don't tip, but if it's a hired hand then tip.
* Buy something from the shop instead, if the teacher owns a store.
* Only tip for tours/trips, not for lessons.
* Tip if you feel they were good!

What I ended up doing was buying some things I needed anyway, plus I bought a gift card (account in their name) at a local coffee and pastry shop that I knew "the shop crew" visited daily. I've never heard of anyone being insulted by getting access to free food and drink!

I thought the instruction was excellent, the equipment provided topnotch, and the class fees reasonable. And I seriously doubt they're getting rich on their business.

Big Ben Lawry
When our club puts on a clinic, it has always been Big Ben that taught us. HE IS AWESOME. I also take his courses every year at the Charleston Kayak Festival. B.B. is a gifted instructor. When we hire B.B., he and I arrive at a price, we spit and shake hands, when he arrives, I give him the money and “let the instructions begin”. That’s it. We pay him what he wants and we both leave it at that. I consider B.B. a good friend. If you know him, you know you don’t have wonder “what did he mean by that”. He is brutally candid. If B.B. was not happy, I’d know it…soon.

No tips here and B.B. has been down and instructed us on many occasions. He must be satisfied.

Good luck


Did He Get Bloody? Did You?
Probably does not apply to a pool lesson, but…

There are a lot of reasons for taking “lessons”

I never got much “instruction” from my surf kayaking lessons. Wear a Helmet and PFD, and keep you butt toward the wave, yada, yada, yada

I took my first group lesson just to find out where they went. They would not divulge that to people who just drop by the shop and ask. You have to pay first before they tell you. Turns out it was right under my nose the whole time, but I had never surfed there. I brought my own boat for that time. I did not tip for that lesson.

I also took group lessons to meet people, try new boats, and so I would not have to bring a boat to the beach. If I used their boat and they loaded, and unloaded, I gave a small tip.

I had a private lesson that involved going out in conditions I did not want to go alone, and could not find a partner for. I was way out of my comfort zone, and the instructor was a little stressed, too. It was pretty epic, and I came back bloody. That trip got a really nice tip.

Thanks for all the replies.
The outfit is fairly upscale ($$$) in an upscale town, and the instructor doesn’t own the company.

The pool is rented from a local park, and the outfit supplies some gear and, sometimes, a boat, though I’ll be using my own kayak this time. I’ll also be using all of my own gear (wetsuit, booties, gloves, PFD, etc.), so I guess this time they won’t be supplying much.

The first 30 minutes of the class are spent gearing up and putting the boat in the pool, which leads me to wonder if the last 30 minutes will be spent doing the reverse. ;-/

If this is the case, I’ll be spending $90.00 for a whopping 90 minutes in the water. =)

Still it’s a service and this person is there not only to teach, but to keep me safe from drowning.

Some food for thought… Thanks everybody.


I think you have to distinguish

– Last Updated: May-05-09 1:33 PM EST –

between a self-employed instructor or guide and someone who is employed by an instruction service or guide service when considering gratuities.

Most self employed guides (myself included), instructors and folks who provide shuttle services have already charged you what they think is fair and normally do not expect a gratuity, (although they are cheerfully accepted if you are so satisfied that you feel compelled to do so).

If your guide, shuttle bunnie or instructor is being paid by the service who employs them and not by you, a gratuity is in order but the amount should be based on your level of satisfaction with the service provided. 10 to 15 percent in most cases is more than generous.