Learning to surf at 61: why you’re never too old to surf

Learning to surf at 61 why youre not too old

Surfing is hard. Fact. Unless you’re a kid with no fear, super flexibility and the annoying ability to learn anything within minutes.

As adults, our bodies are probably not in the best shape. We’ve got commitments that zap our time and energy, and we hate being beginners. Especially at the expense of a super grom who makes surfing look easy.

Yet when we discover our passion for surfing, there’s no stopping us. We eat, sleep and breathe surfing, and the fact that we may be past our prime for learning is just a minor inconvenience.

Take Paul for example. A 64 year old who started surfing at 61. He’s never looked back and he doesn’t intend to stop anytime soon! We caught up with him to find out more…

What inspired you to try surfing?

“I was born to be in the water. Having launched myself at 3 years old, unaccompanied into Finchley Lido in London, I think my parents First surf lesson at age 61realised I was a water baby.

I learnt to swim properly at 8 and continue to do so in competitions at 64. I love being in all types of water and can’t think why I didn’t learn to surf sooner because the holidays we had were by the sea.

It all changed about 9 years ago when I met a teacher who I worked with. He and his wife used to surf regularly, travelling from the Midlands at weekends. I was so impressed with the stories and photos I thought ‘next time I’m in Cornwall I’m having a lesson’.”

How would you describe your relationship with surfing?

“It’s opened up a new dimension in my life. A feeling of freedom. You’re basically on your own, on your surfboard in the sea…one to one.

I think about surfing a lot! I watch video clips, read and talk to my mates who are surfers. I’ve had amazing encouragement from everyone I’ve met. The tutors have been fantastic. Just wish I’d started earlier…but never mind, plenty of time left!”

How often do you surf and where?

“I now surf every time I go to Cornwall (3/4 times a year). I’ve surfed at Polzeath, Portreath and Watergate Bay. There are other beaches I’ve got lined up.

It’s important that I go to a beach that has surfboard hire…until I can buy my own board – something I aim to rectify soon!”

How do you stay stoked in between surf trips?

“I’ve made my own goofboard and wobble board to improve my balance and functional strength. I practise on them regularly and do pop-up practise everyday.”

How do you stay fit and active? Do you think this makes a difference when it comes to surfing?

“I’m into fitness in a big way, always have been. When I’m not surfing I cycle, run and swim. Everyday where possible I do a light weights session along with flexibility exercises. I believe all of this helps with the rigours of surfing.

I pay particular attention to arm strength. This is key for paddling out, getting past some of those waves. I’m proud that I managed to get a 9ft foamie out into the lineup. Mind you, next day I could hardly lift my arms!”

Do you think there’s an age limit to surfing? Is the saying you’re never too old actually true?

“I hope there isn’t an upper age limit! The key thing is to listen to your body and work together with it.“

How long do you plan on surfing and what stage would you like to get to with it?

“I intend to surf until I can’t. Before I finally stop I’d like to be able to pop-up, drop in and trim along some pretty big waves, silver surfer stance! Oh, and be able to hang ten!”

What’s the daftest surf mistake you’ve ever made?

“Got to be on my first lesson. I was given a wetsuit, I put it on, I didn’t know it was inside out. No one told me. So, having struggled to get it on, I got really sweaty getting it off. I was exhausted after redressing myself!

All part of the learning curve I was told. Like falling off and watching a dog surf better than you!”

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start surfing but thinks they’re too old?

“I would say have a go. What have you got to lose? Make sure you’re reasonably fit and healthy. I believe to minimise injury and potential problems it’s important to have lessons with a proper instructor either in a group or as I have done, one to one.

The key thing is that you don’t want to reach 85 and think ‘I wonder if?”

Inspired by Paul and want to try surfing? Book your first surf lesson now!


Image credits: Paul Millington

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  1. Drewnogal
    October 7, 2018

    I’ve always liked the idea of being able to surf and am at last trying to book a first lesson for myself and my 21 year old son. He gave up getting around on his skateboard after an elbow fracture. I am 62 and was inspired by a recent holiday in southern France where I watched some surfers. There I rediscovered my love of swimming in the sea. Having just retired I now have more time to improve my fitness and strength. I power walk 2-3 miles most days and exercise with press-ups and squats. I’m not sure how far I’ll get with the surfing but it sounds like a great way of spending time in the sea outside of the peak summer months ~ I’ll need to get a winter wetsuit of course.

  2. April 17, 2018

    […] One British man, Paul, learned to surf when he was 61 years old and hasn’t looked back since. […]

  3. Ade Shaw
    March 6, 2018

    Brilliant…!!!! Paul is an inspiration… I’m 58 and ex windsurfer, 25 yrs ago, decided to get back in the water without the expense of multiple rigs.. getting myself fit this winter ready for the first ‘pop up’ in 2018… was having doubts but not any more… cheers guys .. shacka

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