Robert Parker in Bali

Robert Parker in Bali
blog contributor Robert Parker Surfing Bali

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Huck here

I'm known on the net as Huck, and I recently paddled back out into the lineup, after a 23 year layoff from surfing. I have my own blog on my personal journey back, http://retrosurf.blogspot.com/.

There are a lot of surfers over the age of 50 who have managed successfully to keep their stoke, and stay healthy enough to surf. I think the main issues that face the over-50 surfer are these:
  1. Health and fitness
  2. Board (or quiver) selection
  3. Surf conditions

As we have all discovered, the ageing process affects our bodies, and our physical and athletic abilities. That has a direct bearing on our surfing. Surfing requires a physical involvement on a number of levels: the stamina and strength to paddle out, the ability to swim, and to hold our breath, in the advent of a wipeout, the flexibility, dexterity, and reflexes to stand up and to control our boards while surfing. As we age, many of us gain weight, and this can hinder our surfing. Even our vision, when it starts to go, becomes an issue in our surfing. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays can take its toll after a lifetime of surfing in the sun.

Our board selection becomes more of an issue as we age. Shorter boards become more difficult to paddle and to ride (but not impossible - many over-50 surfers are still active short-board surfers!). Many of us begin looking for "easier-paddling" boards that still allow the freedom of maneuverabilty of a shorter board. Many go to longboarding, or even kneeboarding, or belly-boarding. All done in an effort to stay out in the surf, enjoying the ride!

Wave and surf-spot selection becomes more of an issue for the over-50 surfer. Most of us can't take the late drops and split-second popups like we did when we were younger. Also, crowds (of mostly young, agile, and aggressive surfers) can become more intimidating to the older surfer.

2 comments:

  1. Congrats on getting wet again, Huck. It's never too late. You just need to know your limits and then work with them.

    Here's some thoughts for folks finding a way back into the line-up. This assumes you are in reasonable shape (can walk a block without huffing and puffing), can swim and hold your breath...

    1. Try and restart in warm water with small waves (summer here in SoCal).

    2. Don't worry about how you look, just roll around in the white water and little swells to get that rhythm back. Remember how to duck under the waves.

    3. Rent, buy or borrow a boogie board. Might as well have some fun while you get the feel back! Start out without fins, just jump into waves. Turn, angle, ride the greenwater. I enjoy a session boogering as much or more than anything else in surfing.

    4. As your comfort level rises, put the flippers on and paddle out the back and catch some real waves. That should do it for one day. You will be surprised at how gassed you'll be and how some very unused muscles will be howling in protest. Hopefully the stoke will be rekindled.

    5. If you are feeling good and your revitalized wave judgement allows you to catch waves on the boogie board, you might want to step up and stand up. If you are having too much fun proning about, DON'T STOP!

    6. Wanna get back on your feet? The pop-up is the biggest hurdle. Remember how hard it was when you first tried surfing; well it hasn't gotten any easier. Practice on the beach (or better yet, in the privacy of your living room). The better you are at jumping up without a wobble, the easier its gonna be with a slippery, tippery, slidey surfboard.

    7. If you're ready for more, borrow or rent a soft top long board or drag that dusty stick out of the rafters (if it's a foot or two taller than you are) and paddle out on a smaller day. Don't put pressure or expectations on your self...paddle out for fun.

    7. Expect punishment until those paddle muscles come back. Maybe try some lake or bay paddling first...

    8. Ride some white water, practice the pop-up and keeping your knees bent when you do get up. Feel the trim, maybe take a few steps up and back...starting to remember, huh?

    9. Go for it!

    10. For your own fragile ego and the safety of others, I would suggest doing all this at a beach break where the crowds are spread out. You want this to be a positive experience...

    In the immortal words of Coral, "Have Fun!"

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  2. hahaha - I did everything wrong, and found out the hard way why it was wrong! Went out a couple of times, bought a new board, and paddled out into sizeable surf. I GOT HAMMERED! Then my legs went into major cramping, knots like baseballs, sore for days after. It was a scary experience! Now, I'm having to overcome the "spooked" feeling that left me with.

    Good advice!

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