Posted on September 5, 2019 by Doug Robichaud
Just like any non-impact sport, there is no age limit for surfing. Boys and girls start surfing as early as 3 years old and famous old surfers like Woody Brown and John H. "Doc" Ball were still paddling into waves well into their late 80s.
Something non-surfers will never understand is that once you experience the feeling of riding a wave, you want it to last forever. This is why you will see men and women in their 70s like Bruce Gold (and even 80s) still out in the lineup enjoying the sport of surfing just as much as they did when they were younger. And, when spending time in the ocean becomes too taxing on older surfer’s physical health, they will continue to drive to their favorite local surf spot and watch the younger generations learn to surf. In the world of surfing, “once a surfer, always a surfer.”
It’s inevitable that over time, you will become an old surfer. At some point in your surfing career, you’re going to discover that your body isn’t in the same peak physical shape it once was. For some, this could happen as early as 30 years old and as late as 50 years old. Father time is undefeated. That being said, experience in the water can make up for a lack of physical prowess in the sport of surfing.
When you do begin to notice a slight decline in your surfing abilities because of back pain or muscle fatigue, do not panic. There are so many ways to combat an old age injury when it comes to surfing. Just look at 11x world champion surfer Kelly Slater. At 47 years old, he’s still competing with the young guns on tour, and many claim he’s still one of the world’s best surfers on the planet. Halfway through the 2019 surfing season, Slater was the 8th ranked pro surfer in the world.
Below, there are three tips all old surfers should know. These tips will offer you the best advice on how to feel like a young surfer again.
Is the high-performance shortboard you used to shred now too small for you? Don’t be ashamed to let go of your go-to high-performance shortboard for something with a bit more volume. Adding more volume to your board will allow you to paddle into waves easier and will give you more stability when you pop-up to your surfing stance. A good board volume for old surfers is 40 liters and beyond.
If you think it’s finally time to move on from shortboarding, many old surfers will replace their high-performance shortboards with high-performance longboards. Unlike traditional longboards, high-performance longboards are designed to surf a wave like a shortboard because they have much less volume, a narrower outline, and more rocker through the tail. Of course, classic longboards are also a great option for old surfers. The laid back Southern California style of gliding on a noserider truly embodies the soul of an old surfer.
Another amazing surfboard alternative that old surfers are trying is a SUP surfboard. Unlike traditional surfing where the rider lies on their stomach and paddles into waves with their arms, SUP surfers stand on their boards the entire time and use a paddle to propel themselves into waves. For older folk, a surfing SUP offers extra mobility and completely avoids the strain of popping-up on a surfboard to start riding a wave. Choosing a surfboard that’s right for you is important, no matter what your age or skill level is.
Let’s face it — staying in surfing shape becomes more difficult as you get older. With old age comes stiffer and weaker muscles, poor balance, and a loss of flexibility. To successfully combat these weaknesses, you will need to start stretching every day and focus on your problem areas. For example, if your lower back is causing you pain after you go surfing, start there with your stretching routine.
Even though it may feel like an uphill struggle to stretch every day and stay in optimal physical shape, you need to do it to avoid injury and to keep on doing what you love most (surfing!). If you love surfing just as much as I think you do, you will be determined every day to properly stretch and do the appropriate upkeep to help alleviate your muscles.
The best way to prep your body for surfing is to practice yoga. Yoga will help improve your flexibility, balance, and muscle strength. You can practice yoga in the comfort of your home, at a local studio, and most importantly, on the beach before and after you paddle out. Yoga will help you feel young again out in the lineup and will improve every aspect of your surfing.
Many old surfers make the mistake of pushing their bodies too far in the surf and suffer an injury as a result. Know your body and be honest with yourself. If you have days where your energy levels are low, take a break from surfing and give your body the rest it needs. If the surf is pumping all week, make sure to take a surf break or two to recover so you can enjoy every session with ample energy levels. Think twice before paddling out on the biggest day of the year — one mistake or fall on a big wave could put you out of surfing for a while. Surfing small waves can keep you surfing for decades.
Old surfers love surfing just as much as they did when they learned to surf. The only difference between then and now is that it’s much harder to stay in surfing shape when you’re older. There are three tips to help you continue surfing at an old age.
Keep on surfing because the best wave of your life is just over the horizon.
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