Some of us have convinced ourselves that after an arbitrary age we are too old to pursue certain things.
We might long to learn a new language ,how to sing, or play the piano, but these self-limiting beliefs that tell us "you're too old" or "it's too late for that" are so successful that we end up abandoning these dreams entirely.
These imagined barriers might , on some level, be protecting us from the fear of failure, or from the discomfort that is inevitably part of the learning process.
But we are dynamic, ever-evolving creatures. There is no expiration date to what we can learn or when we can pursue new things or achieve our goals!
Surfing is one of those activities that can seem out of reach for so many. It's perceived to have a high barrier to entry, especially for those who did not grow up by the beach, have not participated in any other board sports, or who are "older" and might not be as active or as adventurous as they once were.
At Seea we believe that the joy of surfing is for everyone, regardless of experience, ability, or age. If you've always wanted to learn, but feel like you've missed your opportunity because of your age, we wholeheartedly encourage you change your mind!
We were fortunate enough to connect with a group of inspiring seasters who found friendship through their love of surfing. With their practical advice to getting started and insight as to how it might enrich your life, young or old or anywhere in between ,they just might inspire you to learn to surf.
Based in Santa Barbara, California, Nancy Arkin (61) ,Mary Johnson (70) , Pam Orr (62), and Marianne Mcpherson (67), all came to surfing later in life.
The seeds to a friendship that would blossom and bloom over the years were planted in 2014, when they all individually decided to take a surf lessons with the same surf instructor at Surf Country in Goleta, California.
Before that, the idea of surfing wasn't necessarily top of mind for these women.
Orr and Johnson grew up around the ocean and had been interested in surfing, but were deterred from learning themselves since they never saw any women in the lineup.
On her non-linear path to surfing, Johnson notes, "I knew I always felt at home in the water as a kid going to the Jersey shore in the summer where my Dad introduced me to body surfing. I became interested in surfing around 1969 when I came to UC Santa Barbara as an undergraduate and lived in a dorm across the street from Campus Point. However, I saw no women out there and my time was taken by school, working and competing on the college swim team. It was still many years before I embraced surfing as my energy was devoted to career and family. I did find time to stay connected to physical activity and the water through swimming, cycling and triathlons. Fortunately, my staying conditioned was a real plus when I finally took up surfing in my 60’s."
Arkin was inspired to learn by her daughter, who is an avid surfer.
While Mcpherson long dreamed of learning to surf from watching Gidget as a young girl, she didn't live close to the coast. This finally became a possibility when she relocated to Santa Barbara.
After their initial lesson in 2014, they eventually joined a local women's surf group, the Salt Water Divas, and have since shared many memories and adventures, all through the common bond of surfing.
They recently took a surf trip together to dreamy surf town Pavones in Costa Rica where they attended a Surf With Amigas surf retreat, took the time to reflect on what surfing means to them, and offered us some advice and motivation to give to other women who might be interested, but perhaps apprehensive, about learning to surf later in life.
Find support and community!
Ensure your first surfing experience is a positive one by finding a local surf school where you can take lessons. You could ask your local surf shop for recommendations, or you could do some research by doing a simple Google search. Ask around and find out if any surf schools cater to older surfers - they might offer group lessons for adults. Another great way to find support and community is by joining a women's surf group. There might be a group similar to the Salt Water Divas in your area, or even a smaller, less formal ladies surf meet-up.
The benefit of taking lessons, at least the first few times you surf, are many. Support in your early stages is critical to understanding and learning key surfing fundamentals, and it can also help connect you with others who are learning, too. Having surf pals to motivate and encourage you is almost as important as the mechanics!
This group of women is a prime example of these benefits ; They have enjoyed eight years of friendship, with many adventures and memories made along the way, all because they went out of their comfort zone and decided, one day, to take a surf lesson.
Mcpherson says, "Find a group of accepting friends around your level. Definitely take lessons, but find someone who is committed to your success."
Johnson adds, "...We were all beginners which made it easier and not intimidating and we had an instructor who was excited to share his passion with female novices. To this day, he continues to support women in surfing with patience and humor."
Keep in mind, joining one of these groups doesn't necessarily mean a major time commitment. Most of them have meet-ups scheduled on a regular basis that you can attend when you can. It's just nice knowing that you have a network of like-minded people of all ages - some of whom will be learning like you. And who knows, you might just find a great community of friends to share time with in and out of the water.
Once you've had some experience and have some comfortability in the water, you might consider attending a women-centric surf retreat, like Surf With Amigas. These types of retreats typically cater to novices through intermediate levels of surfing in a supportive and comfortable environment, and is another way to build confidence and a network of other adult women who surf.
Don't give up! Give yourself grace and find humor in the discomfort
We won't sugar coat it - surfing is hard.
We know this is one of the reasons you might be intimidated to take the initial plunge, especially at an age where you might not find flailing around in the water appealing or balk at donning a wetsuit. But, it becomes less frustrating and less intimidating when you give yourself over to it and accept that learning is a process and progress might be slow. Small progress is progress, so celebrate those wins and don't give up.
When her local independent newspaper ran a story about the Salt Water Divas, and learning to surf with lessons offered, Orr knew it was her moment :
"I thought "I've always wanted to try surfing, and I'm not getting any younger..." so I signed up for my first lesson. I really enjoyed it, though I only got to my feet for a split second."
But, she concedes that it was a challenge and she nearly gave into self-doubt!
"I signed up for a second lesson. That one didn't go very well. I just couldn't get my feet under myself, it was short of a disaster. I left that lesson thinking, "I gave it a try, I'm too old, it's not going to be something I can do." I was literally driving out of the parking lot from that lesson, when right in front of me, on the rear window of a car, a bumper sticker read "Never Give Up". I'm not a superstitious person, but I decided to give surfing one more try. I'm so glad I did, because during that third lesson, the magic happened for me, and I was hooked!
Johnson adds, "You need to be able to laugh at yourself when you take up surfing because you are not going to ride every wave that comes your way. There will be days where you don’t even stand up once, but with patience, humility and persistence you will learn to surf."
Also keep in mind that learning to surf can be challenging for everyone, regardless of athletic ability - so as long as you can swim consider yourself qualified to try!
Arkin advises "But be prepared to try, try and try again. Take lessons and find a group of supportive people. And never think you are too old to try something new. I have been “sporty” my entire life, but it was so fun learning something new and not be competent. It’s humbling and empowering."
Surfing is more than just catching waves - you don't have to be perfect
Surf how you want. There are no rules that say that you have to surf big waves or go outside of your comfort zone. Surfing is meant to be enjoyed - even if you might not be catching lots of waves. The experience of being in the water on your own or with friends is fulfilling, too!
Johnson says, "Really though the most favorite aspect has little to do with the physical aspect of surfing. Surfing is a place where I can feel the power of the energy of the water beneath my feet and connect with the spiritual aspect of my being. Even on a day that is rough on the water and I have not caught a wave, I leave my surf session feeling connected to the spiritual energy around us."
Orr agrees with that sentiment and adds "There is nothing like the beauty and peacefulness of being on the ocean on a clear, sunny, morning, with perhaps a pod of dolphins or a friendly sea lion popping up nearby. "
If you're concerned about some physical limitations you might have, trust that you might be able to work around them, or find some way to adapt.
Johnson, for example, seeks the help of kind strangers when she has trouble with her wetsuit (the wetsuit struggle is real for many of us - young and old alike!)
"I am unable to get my winter wetsuit off without help so there are times where I have to ask a stranger for assistance. At first this kept me from surfing unless I went with a friend. I got some pretty strange looks from strangers especially young males when I asked them to pull off part of the wetsuit. After all, I was old enough to be their grandmother! I no longer hesitate to ask and I have met a variety of kind people in the process."
Orr shares with us how she was able to adapt when she was struggling to pop up on her board :
She says, " I don't call it a popup, I call it a lumber up. I have very inflexible knees and hips and I can't do a graceful swoop to the feet and up. It took me a lot of trial and error to find a "technique" that worked for me. It's not pretty, but it works and that is what counts. "
Entirely let go of the idea that your age is a limitation
Lastly, unburden yourself with the belief that there is a time limit to when it is acceptable, appropriate, or possible to learn something new. Even if it's challenging or might not come as easily or as comfortably as it would have if you were younger. These beliefs are self-sabotaging and don't serve you - they only make you feel bad.
Arkin says, "You are never to old to learn something new. In fact that’s what keeps you young. Age is irrelevant. What makes surfing great is as long as you are comfortable with the conditions you can have many different skill levels out there."
We hope to see you out in the lineup soon!