Pupils at Amity International School Abu Dhabi swap the classroom for open water

With its own watersports academy, the school gets the children involved - along with their parents and teachers

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When they are not in the classroom, pupils at Abu Dhabi’s Amity International School spend their time — quite literally — learning the ropes.

Amity is the only school in Abu Dhabi to have its own Watersports Academy, which is recognised by the Royal Yachting Association.

Pupils at Amity International School get ready for their sailing lesson. Victor Besa / The National

It helps that the school is based right on the water, at Al Bahia Open Beach, where Amity has plenty of equipment perfect for beginners to learn in a safe and secure environment.

From Year 3 upwards — about age 7 — pupils have the chance to make the most of the capital’s natural surroundings and get out on the open water, learning vital life skills as they go.

Children learn to sail in Pico boats, which are perfect for beginners. Victor Besa / The National

The hope is that, by the time they reach secondary school, they are able to link the knowledge acquired on the water to relevant subjects and topics learnt in the classroom, from physical education and geography to biology and physics.

Pupils are given the chance to take part in paddle sports as well as traditional sailing activities, helped along by some healthy competition with their peers.

Instructor Stephanie divides the class into three teams. Victor Besa / The National

“With our beachside location, it feels silly not to be making the most of it,” Guy Schooley, deputy head of Amity International School Abu Dhabi, tells The National. “The children absolutely love being out on the water, especially after Covid. The chance to get out sailing is brilliant for them. They are doing physical activity, they are out in nature and they are gaining life skills. The teachers love it too and it’s great for their well-being.”

While the academy offers a vast extracurricular programme, watersports are also built into pupils' academic timetable for two weeks of the year in the cooler winter months, ensuring everybody is equipped with the basic skills as well as water safety knowledge.

Teams preparing for the mini regatta. Victor Besa / The National

It’s not only the pupils of Amity who get involved, either. Parents are also invited to take part in watersports activities while their children have their sailing lessons that,often end with a friendly mini-regatta, which parents can stay and watch, and cheer along from the sidelines.

They can also book in for training sessions and community events with the academy’s instructors, including ladies’ clubs, family activity days and trips to other emirates.

Parents can take part in stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Victor Besa / The National

“We have kayak and stand-up paddle boarding club for the parents which takes place three times a week,” Schooley says.

“We wanted to re-engage the community after Covid and it’s been really popular. It gives the parents the opportunity to talk to each other, meet each other and bond over a shared interest, which is really nice to see.”

There is a potluck breakfast tent whenever the parents group meet up. Victor Besa / The National

While the watersports curriculum doesn’t have to be competitive, it does allow pupils to gain some credentials along the way if they wish, with the opportunity to gain internationally recognised Royal Yachting Association qualifications in sailing, and compete against other schools in an interschool regatta, hosted at Amity.

“Now we are fully able to be back out on the water, we are certainly making up for lost time,” says Schooley.

Updated: March 04, 2022, 6:01 PM