From passion to a career

For students fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by the rich marine environment of Esperance, the careers of Felix and Claude Spencer might provide inspiration for future courses of study.

The brothers, along with sisters, Sabina and Phoebe were ignited in their love of the ocean by their parents, Sally and John, who provided their children with every opportunity to enjoy the wind, waves and beach.

Felix Spencer started windsurfing at the age of 10 but became serious about the sport at 13. Talented and dedicated he took advantage of learning from the best exponents whenever he could, gradually developing his skills to a level where, on several occasions, he has travelled overseas, endeavouring to qualify for competitions in the Professional Windsurfers Association world tour. In this very competitive sport he has yet to break into the big time but every opportunity provides more experience – and enjoyment. (Google to see videos of Felix in windsurfing action)

Realising that earning money through windsurfing is only achieved by the top echelon in the sport, after graduating from ESHS in 2011 Felix searched for a career that both complemented his academic strengths in maths and science and his desire to windsurf and enjoy other water sports. Engineering was a good fit but none of the courses offered in WA appealed so it was fortuitous when he came across a Bachelor of Engineering (Naval Architecture) offered at the University of Tasmania, Australian Maritime College (AMC). This course prepares students for careers in the commercial, recreational and military ship building industries, high speed ferry industry, marine consultancy firms and various state transport authorities. For Felix, being awarded a University of Tasmania Engineering Scholarship and an AMC Outstanding Achiever Scholarship were academic highlights in those four years of study. Graduating at the end of 2015 Felix returned to Esperance for six months of training before heading overseas trip to try out for world windsurfing events.

After returning to WA Felix was employed by Southerly Designs in Port Denison where he designs and engineers power vessels from 5 m to 60m, ranging from fishing boats, patrol and military craft and work/crew boats. The boats are for the domestic and international market and being able to see a boat built from start to finish, as many of the boats that they design are also built in WA, is rewarding. As well as being a great place to work Port Denison offers more consistent and stronger sea breezes than Esperance with conditions that are similar to those where most overseas competitions are held. However, Felix still loves to windsurf in Esperance as conditions more suit wave riding where as Port Denison is more suited to jumping and tricks.

Last year Felix was able to combine work with competitions when he travelled to the Canary Islands. Ideally more opportunities like that will come to fruition in the future.

Claude Spencer’s ocean based hobbies of swimming, diving, fishing and body boarding influenced his career selection at university. Being accepted into his first choice of Marine Science at UWA was a highlight of Claude’s academic career thus far.

Marine Science is the scientific study of our oceans and coastal habitats and WA offers the perfect living laboratory with 80 percent of fish, invertebrates and other organisms only found in our marine environment With one unit to complete his degree Claude intends to continue working at his paid job in a supermarket but to move away from study for the rest of this year in order to decide which direction to pursue in marine science, prior to beginning a Masters degree next year. He has made the most of his reduced workload this semester to advance future employment prospects by gaining a scuba diving ticket and recreational skipper’s ticket.

At ESHS Claude studied Physics and Chemistry but advises students considering Marine Science as a career to select Biology as a subject in high school as he would have found the course easier with that background knowledge.

For now, Claude is enjoying the benefits of living in Perth, with the ocean only twenty minutes away and other natural environments such as King’s Park on his doorstep. Although not expecting to remain there forever as long as he is living in a coastal community he will be happy.

Felix Spencer in his element. Felix started windsurfing at the age of 10 but became serious about the sport at 13.

Felix Spencer in his element. Felix started windsurfing at the age of 10 but became serious about the sport at 13.