Joel Callen


Surfing in your 60s – it can be life-changing

Surfing in your 60s – it can be life-changing

Here at Over60, we firmly believe that you’re never too old to realise your dreams, and if surfing is one of them, we say go for it!

World Champion Surf Coach, Jason Chapman (who has coached two-time world champion Tom Carroll), agrees.

“Surfing is something that is possible for anyone, no matter what their age,” says Chapman. “Once you get the bug, you will get a new lease on life. Getting out in the water is so amazing!”

Here are Chapman’s tips for senior surfers:

Be sure you are an adequate swimmer

“You should be able to confidently swim at least 500 metres, as you will be spending a lot of time in the water,” advises Chapman. “If you are dumped and need to swim to shore, you’ll need to be prepared.”

Enjoy a good level of fitness before you begin

You will be using your entire body and moving a great deal. Ensure you have the cardio fitness and a good base of strength to begin.

Check your flexibility

“A lot of surfing involves going from a laying down position to standing up on your board in a hurry. You want your muscles to be strong and supple in order to do this with ease.” Chapman suggests yoga, in particular postures such as Downward Dog, which work to stretch and strengthen the hamstrings.

Work on your shoulder, chest and arm strength

“You’ll be paddling a lot to meet the waves,” says Chapman. Begin by swimming laps, in various strokes, which will help you get used to being in water and build up arm and upper body strength.

Get the right equipment

“A long board will serve you better, as it offers better stability and is easier to stand up on,” says Chapman.

Dress appropriately

“A wetsuit offers better buoyancy for sure,” says Chapman. “At the very least, wear a rashie, as bare skin against a surfboard can quickly become irritated and leave a painful rash.” And of course, don’t forget high SPF, broad-spectrum sunblock.

Choose your beach

Location is important for a novice surfer. “Find a break that is a gentle spilling wave,” advises Chapman. “A dumping wave will overwhelm you as a beginner. A bay is great choice, as it is protected from the swell, the waves are small and gentle and they peel along for a long time, giving plenty of room for error.”

Also, be sure it is a patrolled beach. “While you will be surfing outside of the flags, you will still be in sight of the surf life savers, if you need to be rescued.”

Book a lesson

It’s important to learn proper technique from professionals, who can also give you the skills to know what to do if you get into peril.

“Most beaches have surf schools operating from them now,” says Chapman. “A quick Google search will help you find one close to you.”

Be aware of the surf ethic

There is a code between surfers, and on some beaches, it is even sign posted. “This consists of simple things, such as not dropping in on another surfer’s wave, and other such safety precautions.” If in doubt, ask the surf lifesavers, or a local.

Consider a surfing safari

“You can pick up skills in one week that would take you a year to learn on crowded Australian beaches,” says Chapman. “Surfing safaris in places like the Maldives, take you into ocean breaks, which means you have more wave time and less people to compete with in the surf. Typically, the waves and conditions are easier and better, too.”

Have a plan B

If the whole surfing thing isn’t working out for you, Chapman suggests trying Stand Up Paddling. “It takes the ‘standing-from-laying-down-position’ thing out of the equation, as you are already standing up! It’s a great way to enjoy the water, too, especially if you lack flexibility.”

Related links:

Why you should (and how to) attempt a skydive when you’re 60-plus

Physical activity in decline. Are you guilty?

These over-60s prove you’re never too old to take on extreme adventures