I was young then and surfing gave me the thrill that I, in my youth-fueled age, was searching for. Now, years forward, with a handful of spills under my belt and a near-encounter with a great white, I still feel the same, resolute in riding the waves.
So it stands to reason that as I age, my friends still see me killing it in the line-up.
Decades ago, it would have been quite a novelty, seeing an older man surf. There is a guy that I surf with on occasion in Ventura that charges hard and he is pushing 80. Awesome!
For that bro, and all of you out there who think you need to hang it up when you get older, we got some news for you—you can keep surfing until they put you in a casket.
Ever since the modern era of surfing began, the sport has been associated with youth, and with good reason. It was the baby boom generation that took ownership of this sport and made it a popular summer pastime.
When this pioneer generation grew old, they didn’t go away. Rather, they kept on surfing and in the process, attracted a new generation of young surfers. That’s why through the years, it has become a common sight to see three generations of surfers sharing the waves at the beach.
The production of new surfing board designs helped make it easier for older folks. Those who stopped surfing when they reached adulthood have now been enticed to return to surfing in their retirement because of the renewed popularity of longboards. These 9’+ surfboards eased their re-entry into surfing because of these boards’ stability and wave-catching quality.
That’s why these days, the age wave has already overtaken the surfing scene. There are a lot more surfers over 50 now and the surfer tribe is cool with it.
In fact, I ride a shorter board now than I ever did in my teens. Ok, it’s wider and fatter but it’s still shorter. How short you are thinking—try 5’4.
Health Benefits of Surfing
For someone who is not a surfer though, the idea of surfing as a recreational sport for the elder might seem risky. But in reality, it’s a totally legit way of getting older people to exercise outdoors.
How old is Slater now anyway?
In fact, a lot of older surfers hitting the waves at the beach are actually retirees who are just now learning how to surf. For them, there’s no age limit to this sport. No one can’t really be too old to learn how to surf.
In fact, even surfing champions recommend it. As a recreational sport, it’s a great and fun way to get fit.
Here’s why it can give you great benefits.
It is good for the heart. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of elderly death in the US. Regular exercise, combined with a healthy diet has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease. Surfing will make you burn 400 calories per hour, keeping your weight down and burn the bad cholesterol from your cardiovascular system.
It builds up your shoulder and back strength. Often times, a sedentary lifestyle during retirement make the muscles weak and stiff. Back and shoulder muscles are particularly prone to this. An injury to this group of muscles can prevent you from moving around and lifting objects. But when you surf, all that paddling around on a board is a great workout for your back, shoulder, and chest muscles.
The rotating motion of your arms also encourages the full use of the pivoting joints in your shoulder and spine. This increases the mobility of your upper torso and helps prevent joint stiffness which is common in old age.
Improves your flexibility. Riding the waves will require your body to stretch and twist constantly. The basic maneuvers alone can be quite a work-out for your muscles. But this is a good thing because all that stretching and reaching will improve the overall mobility of your body.
Strengthens your Legs and Core Muscles. Your leg and core strength are important because these support your upper body which in turn affects your posture and the straightness of your spine. Having a strong core and legs allows you to balance, stand upright, and use your upper torso. In surfing, the variety of motions-from standing on your board from a lying position on your stomach-builds up your core.
This motion encourages the use of certain muscles in your back and legs as you try to balance yourself and keep from falling off your surfboard. When you’re constantly jumping on your feet to catch a wave, all that repetition will strengthen your legs and core.
Improves Concentration. Surfing requires a person to develop a certain level of coordination. Coordination is only developed and improved through concentration and practice. So basically, surfing will help keep your wits about you.
Keeps Depression Away. Depression in old age is a common condition. Surfing, however, is a great way to build up your mental health. First, the ocean is a great stress reliever. Studies show that exercising in water environments create a Blue Effect which calms the mind and relieves stress. Second, the physical activity of surfing triggers the release of endorphins in your brain which make you feel good and happy. Finally, there’s the social component.
Surfers surf as a tribe; so no one really surfs alone. You get to socialize with fellow surf enthusiasts and share the stoke of catching every single wave that rolls through or just sit contently on your surfboard out amongst the breakers.
Surfing is a skill that is learned over time. It may be difficult to catch a wave during your first few rounds on the beach and that’s normal. Just use this time to get attuned to the waves and the ocean.
— Derek Dodds, Wave Tribe Founder
Tips for Aging Surfers
Like any other sport though, surfing requires you to be reasonably fit. You can’t surf if you’re sickly. That’s why you have got to have regular physical exercise and a healthy diet before even thinking of buying a surfboard. That being said, here are some tips for the first-timers at surfing.
Tip 1 - Know how to Swim
Surfing isn’t just your ordinary sport because, among other things, you’re doing it in a marine environment. That’s why if you are serious in taking up the sport in your old age, you should at least know how to swim. Because as a first timer, you’d be falling off your board more than usual. Being able to float and swim decreases the chances of getting into a drowning accident in the ocean.
Tip 2 - Know your Ocean
Before grabbing a board, make sure you are well-versed on basic ocean knowledge. Learning about local tides, swells, and currents will give you the big picture of how the lineup operates. It will help you make the best decisions possible as to when, how, and where to surf.
Tip 3 - Know Your Limits
Don’t compare yourself with the younger bros on the beach. They’re more physically fit and have been surfing around longer than you. The ocean is far more powerful than any of us, and without the necessary skills and experience, it is reckless to get into the water in conditions beyond your skill level. You can be a danger to yourself and others. Choose a beginner-friendly wave; and yield graciously to the skilled surfers who are often younger than you.
Tip 4 - Learn Basic Surfing Slang
Knowing the language will help you communicate with other experienced surfers when you’re in the water. This is a case of when in Rome, do-or as in this case, speak-as Romans do. Just don’t go overboard with the cliches. Punctuating your every sentence with a “bro” or a “shaka” isn’t really helpful when communicating with each other in a line-up.
Tip 5 - Be Patient
Surfing is a skill that is learned over time. It may be difficult to catch a wave during your first few rounds on the beach and that’s normal. Just use this time to get attuned to the waves and the ocean. It might not always be easy, but the stoke that you get when you’re finally surfing is worth all the trouble you’ve experienced while learning. Just have fun and enjoy, that’s the important thing.
World Seniors Citizen Day
This August 21, the whole world celebrates Senior Citizen's Day. It’s a day to recognize and acknowledge the contributions of older people to society.
It’s also an occasion to celebrate your age. So why not indulge yourself by taking up surfing? One can never be too old for anything. I, for one, hope to be surfing until I'm old and grey. So, let's raise a glass to that.
Oh and if you’re looking for some awesome surfing products to help you along your surfing journey, check out our site. We’ve got some of the best, stylish and eco-friendly surfing gears this side of the world.
Other Essential Wave Tribe Reads
Why Oceans are so Important - Everything You Need to Know
How to Make your Surfing Travel Plans Eco-Friendly
When Surfing Offers More than a Stoke