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10 Reasons Why You’re Never Too Old to Learn Surfing

Not everyone grew up on the beach. Nor can we fit everything we want to do in our first 18 years. Thus, just because people age doesn’t mean they don’t want to try new things. Surfing is one of the most “clear your mind and leave your stress behind” activities out there. This is exactly what adults need. But often there is hesitation about trying due to age.

You are not too old to surf, regardless of whether you are 30, 40, 50, 60, or beyond. It’s a non-impact sport, so kinder on the joints. However, it’s best if you can still put weight on your knees and wrists. Doing core strengthening exercises, swimming, and realistic expectations will help too.

Surfing is one of those versatile sports that can meet a person where they are at. Yes, there are the young people and surfing veterans who get dragged out by jet skis to catch monster waves. No, that might not ever be you if you are learning after thirty and beyond. But if you are an active person, and your goal is to have fun, then you can totally learn to surf. 

10 Tips To Learning To Surf After 30, 40, 50 & Beyond

older man on a surfing a wave

We often think of aging as something that happens to people after 70. Unfortunately, changes can occur as early as the late twenties. Our reaction time slows, we might not learn things as quickly, it can take longer to build muscle tone, and our bone mass might decrease. But that doesn’t mean life is over. 

Staying active throughout our lives has enormous benefits. For example, a study discovered that a group of 80-year-old cyclists had an immune system of a 20-year-old, thanks to their fitness regime. Surfing is not only good exercise; it has been shown to be fantastic for mental health. Thus, surfing is an excellent outdoor sport that helps keep you fit and feel good. 

1. Make Friends With The Sea

For some people, the ocean is practically in their blood, even if they’ve never surfed. They swim in it, boogie board, and have been drenched by an overzealous wave a time or twenty. 

However, if you are not already a regular beach goer, make friends with the sea before your first surf lesson. Splash around, hop waves, body surf, or even have a snorkel in a protected area. Just get comfortable with the waves coming in and the salty water. 

2. Do Some Pre-Training

There is no exercise like surfing other than surfing. Even people who skateboard and snowboard find actual surfing very different. While boogie boarding is a blast and will provide experience in paddling out and “catching waves,” it is still nothing like popping up and riding on your feet. 

However, there are things you can do to ensure your first few lessons go well. To begin with, make sure you can swim. Even when surfing in the shallows, where you can walk out with your board by your side, you still have to paddle to catch a wave. Nor will you have the aid of your feet to kick. So do some freestyle and get those shoulders and back moving. 

The other crucial muscles in surfing are core strength. You don’t need to perform a thousand crunches. Activities such as yoga and Pilates not only help with core strength, they aid with balance.  Balance is a huge part of surfing. 

3. Laugh At Yourself

Learning to surf is not the most dignified activity. You fall off, bounce on your bum along the seafloor, as waves smack you in the face, and you end up with sandy-snot. That cute surf hair in the commercials? Yeah, it requires a team of professionals. You are probably going to look a bit more scruffy. 

So what? 

Learning to surf requires the ability to laugh. So just enjoy the beautiful day, the sea, the sand. Do not give a royal fig if some six-year-old twerp pops up on their second try and zooms off while you’re still making a might splash and counting how many times your bum can bounce to shore. 

We promise you that the first time you stick your pop up and ride that wave, you are going to feel victorious. It is such a rush. Riding a wave, even a small one, is one of the closest you can get to flying without being in the air. You will savor it all the more because you had to put some actual effort in, unlike the six-year-old twerp. 

4. Act Like You Can Surf

There is a saying amongst surfers that when you cross the beach with a board, nobody can tell how good you are. That person with all the best gear? They might be rubbish. That grizzled man with the ripped suit and a board looking older than you? He might be the best in the area. 

When you arrive at the beach, stride like you belong. Because you do. Nobody knows if you are good or not. Even when you get in the water and show off your spectacular bum bounce, what people see is that you got up and tried again. That is what matters and earns respect. 

5. Keep Realistic Expectations

Nobody can say how good you will be as a surfer. But the truth is, starting any new physical activity after your late teens means you’ll probably never reach what you could have if you started at twelve. So have patience with yourself and just appreciate what you are doing now. 

Yes, twelve-year-old, you might have been better. But you’ve got guts and are seizing life. Well done. Because life is there to be enjoyed, so live it your way.

6. Be Open To Modifications

Pro surfers pop up with this amazing glide. However, some older people have to get onto their knees first and then bring up their feet. It is an extra step, but the body sometimes doesn’t have the upper body strength to perform the flashy all-in-one move right away. Also, flexibility can be lost with age, making it necessary to modify. 

This also goes with equipment. A short, snappy trick board might not ever be right for you. Wider boards may have more stability, but this will cause problems in the shoulders for some women. Thus, longboards might be the way to go, but look for narrow ones. They don’t turn like a dime, but they can be a pleasure to ride. 

Also, sometimes you can find people who customize boards for a great price. For example, for older women, sometimes a board that is a little shorter and narrower than a typical longboard but still long enough to provide stability. 

7. Yoga, Pilates & Stretching

We mentioned yoga and Pilates for pre-training, but it’s good to keep doing it even when you start surfing. It not only helps with balance and builds core strength, but the stretching will also keep you limber and help you pop up to your feet. 

Yoga and Pilates also help maintain key muscles to fight off back pain and overall body aches, including the neck and shoulders. When we get tight, we invite injury. Being injured stinks, and you miss out on the fun. 

But if neither yoga nor Pilates works for you, at the very least, stretch before and after you surf. While basic stretches don’t maintain core or build balance, they at least keep your muscles from becoming knotted and help protect you from injury. 

8. Take Lessons

Lastly, take lessons. Sure, some young twerps go out and pick it up all on their own. But get somebody to teach you. The best part of this is that there is somebody who knows what they are doing in the water with you. They can help brainstorm any necessary modifications and entertain you with stories of their own wipeouts. It’s a blast. 

9. Celebrate Small Victories

You have to look at the small accomplishments and celebrate them like you just took on a sixty-foot wave. Even if that accomplishment is just finally getting able to paddle out past the break of waves. Or standing on your board for one second and feeling that beautiful feeling of, I did it, I got this, and I can do it.

There is never a time when you’re too old for surfing, with the best part about starting it is getting involved in the community, receiving guidance and wisdom through veterans of the sport, and the simple joy of learning something that you want to.

10. Don’t Beat Yourself Up, You’re Not an Imposter

Sometimes there is that feeling of what can be called imposter syndrome; when you are out in the water waiting and hesitant on your turn, or you wash up on the beach after failing to get up on your board on the smallest of waves. Creating the feel of a hundred eyes are on you and you alone, but that isn’t true.

Those surfers out there are probably watching your progress in the water. Seeing you try again and again to feel comfortable out there. In any sport or activity starting something new is terrifying not only for your safety sometimes but just because of the anxiety of it.

You have to swallow a lot of pride to fail again and again. But that’s where the love of it comes in, all the work and heart you put in it, the more rewarding it can be, not only in your skill on a board but in the community around you.

Benefits To Surfing After 30, 40, 50 & Beyond

Surfing has excellent benefits for your physical and mental health, no matter your age. It is a full-body workout that is easy on the joints and is fun. Thus, the many health benefits include:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Improves coordination
  • Improves muscle tone
  • Improves balance
  • Increases endurance
  • Greater energy

It particularly strengthens:

  • Back
  • Core
  • Legs
  • Shoulders

Surfing Provides Better Bone Health

While surfing is good for anyone’s health, the sport has provided a few other surprising benefits for older surfers. In 2019 Vini Simas at Bond University did a study on male surfers between the ages of 50 and 75. They found that surfing gave men better bone density, despite not being considered a high-impact activity. 

The study also looked at key areas prone to degenerations, such as the femoral neck of the femur and the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine is of particular interest as lower back pain is a common problem in adults

Surfing Provides Better Neuromuscular Function

Another health benefit older surfers enjoy is better neuromuscular function. A study on older surfers found:

  • Less postural sway
  • Lower muscle force fluctuations

Overall, the study suggested that those that surfed in their older years would have “improved quality of life.” 

Surfing Reduces Risk Of Falls

Surfing reduces the chances of older people falling in their day-to-day life. As people age, loss of balance increases due to reduced neuromuscular function, muscle tone, and overall strength. Surfing helps counteract these issues, thus making it less likely a surfer will fall on land. Of course, surfers still fall off their boards. But it is a heck of a lot easier on the body to fall into the water than falling onto asphalt. 

Surfing May Lower Diabetes II Risk

Many people talk about how surfing and other forms of exercise lower people’s risk by 58% of developing type 2 diabetes. But it is not too late if diabetes is already part of your life. Being active helps manage the chronic condition by making your body more insulin sensitive.

In turn, physical activity will reduce your risk of heart disease and nerve damage, which are common complications for people with diabetes. This is because exercise helps the body control blood sugar levels. 

Yes, there are other ways to exercise than surfing. But ask yourself, are they as much fun? 

Surfing Provides Better Mental Health

Surfing is being used as a therapy tool for various mental health issues. Initiatives have proven so successful there are now many programs for young people around the world, including in South Africa

Thanks to the International Surf Therapy Organization, many people have been able to use surfing as part of their therapy, such as depression and military personnel dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Part of this may have to do with what is referred to as the “blue mind effect.” Expanses of blue spaces, be it the sea or the sky, reduce stress and anxiety, providing a more positive mindset. Thus, surfing immerses you in that blue space all while exercising, which releases endorphins too. 

Surfing May Reduce Dementia Risk

Many studies have examined potential links between exercise and dementia, including Alzheimer’s. While the exact percentages differ, 20 – 80%, the evidence does show that exercise reduces people’s risk of contracting dementia. 

Surfers have gotten on board with these findings. This includes a group of Australians who started the fundraiser Wipeout Dementia. The group is also committed to spreading the benefits of staying active by doing activities such as surfing. 

Collaborators with their project have found from a SMART trial that even those already experiencing memory will benefit from moderate-intensity exercise. The physical activity slows down the decline of cognitive function, allowing people to enjoy life longer. 

Final Thoughts

Surfing is a non-impact sport that doesn’t have an age limit. So if you want to surf, go out there and give it a go. Just have patience with yourself and bring along a large heap of humor. But you will be a surfer, no matter your age if you persevere. It will benefit you physically, mentally, and is just a ton of fun.

As someone who started surfung past their adolescent years, I understand the trouble of getting started in something as intimidating as surfing. It’s hard to get into a sport where you can feel that everyone is miles ahead of you; or that their brains must have different wiring than yours because everything they’re doing just looks that easy.

But it’s not easy, and it wasn’t the easiest for those out in the waves looking at home once either. Everyone starts somewhere. You can start at the age of seven or fourty; all beginnings look just as similar.

You’re not too old to start surfing, because you can never be too old to try.

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