Robert Parker in Bali

Robert Parker in Bali
blog contributor Robert Parker Surfing Bali

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In the beginning...

It all started with a post on a message board. The response was quick and intense, with a lot of voices joining in. From that, came the genesis of this blog. So I thought it appropriate, at this time, to share some of the insight and advice of that initial thread.

There is more, much more, of course, and in time I'll share some of it. But I don't want to make this entry overwhelming. So here is just a taste of how this blog got launched...


I see a lot of gray hair in the lineup these days.

Since getting (back) into surfing at the tender young age of 54, I'm finding being a grem again at my age is a challenge. Of course, I've got many years of surfing behind me, but after a 23 year layoff, its taking a little time to regain my sea legs, and my confidence in the lineup!

I'd love to know what other surfers over age 50 are doing regarding the challenges of surfing while ageing. Stuff like conditioning, board selection, etc. etc.


Although I have a couple longboards in my garage I only ride them on rare occasions (knee high surf etc). I surf with a lot of guys as old as me or older, and they still ride all kinds of boards in all kinds (and sizes) of surf, including big waves. Get more exercise, surf more often, lose a few pounds of flab - unless you have bum joints or a bad back eventually you can ride pretty much what you want... maybe not pipeline or mavericks but most waves anyway. That's my 2cents worth, I'm sure someone will have another opinon...


I'm not 50, will be 40 in 2 weeks, but still like to hear what is said on threads such as these; my first thoughts are 23 years is a long time, surf surf and surf some more, surf as often as you can...aroebic activity to keep the weight in check...walk run bike swim, whatever, just keep moving and try to do it 3x a week...I consistently fail at my own advice though

let 'er rip!


I'm 58 and the longest board I have is an 8'6" California gun. My daily driver is a 6'2" fish. The best way to stay in surfing shape is to surf. I really notice a regression if I'm out only once a week. Mostly stiffness which affects popping up.

Eat less, exercise more. You can't imagine the difference losing 10 pounds will do ya. Being roughly the same weight you were in high school is good for more than your surfing...

That said, surfing is about exercising and having fun. If it takes a longboard to work for you, ride a longboard.


Imagine if you lived on the East Coast, where it can be flat for weeks at a time, and swells usually only last a day or two. On top of that, imagine you're looking at 50 years old just around the corner!

I'm 46, and started a regular exercise regimen about 8 years ago just to maintain my level of surfing. I stuck with it, and seem to be doing OK. I ride all kinds of boards, and get plenty of waves on them. So... add a longboard to your quiver, for sure... just because they're fun! But commit yourself to improving your conditioning, and you'll be happier, healther, and stay in the game longer. That's my plan. How long, who knows...


I'm coming up on 53 and both of my daily drivers are under 6ft, but then again I pack a lot of volume into my boards. The advantage to shorter boards is that you can more readily duck dive them than the same volume in a longer length - more leverage. The disadvantage is that a shorter board requires a better eye , better positioning, and better timing; there's less room for error. Fortunately, the physical decline that comes with getting older doesn't have that much effect on your wave judgement or timing.

I think that might be where you're at right now - after a long hiatus you haven't yet recovered or refined your wave judgement and timing. A longer length might help you compensate for that. I would also think that you might find paddling a lighter board a fair bit easier, too. On your board if you routinely have to make more than 5-8 strokes to get into a wave the weight of that board might be cutting into your wave count.

As for boards, I use different boards for different conditions and I pay a lot of attention to rockers (in particular) in relation to the waves I'm anticipating. I almost always bring two boards with me so as to have a choice. I don't always get it right but I almost never get it completely wrong. I usually aim for "just barely enough".

Beyond that I think that once you identify what you need for float the rest comes down to paddling technique and using your more limited amounts of energy wisely. For paddling it's all about the long smooth stroke and resisting the urge to short stroke. For energy conservation it's about being smart.

I don't do a lot of paddling for position, I usually don't hang out in the middle of the baitball and I don't paddle for a wave unless I think I have a decent shot at getting it. When I'm on I get about the same number of waves that I would get on a bigger board. I could probably score more waves more consistently on bigger boards but at this point I don't consider more to be better than better. I make up for my declining rate of waves-per-hour by staying out. My average session is about 2 hours. Because of that I watch the tides and time my sessions accordingly.

I think the bottom line is that my approach to surfing is a lot more mentally involved than it was when I was younger.
I illustrated this entry with a picture of my jumping dolphins painting. Hope you enjoy it!


  1. Hi, Cool blog...I just turned 55 in Jan. I feel fortunate that I'm still able to surf both long and short boards to some degree of competency. Lately my I've been going a little bit shorter on both my long and short boards. My log is an 8'0" epoxy and I'll ride shortboards between 6'0"-6'6", some that I've shaped and some that I have'nt. I tend to favor shorter, wider shapes like fishes and hybrid outlines that help in catching waves easier. For me changing things up every once in a while helps to keep the stoke going. Right now my next challenge is to get back into riding conventional shortboards like I did a while back. I think I'm gonna have to go a little wider and thicker than what I see on the racks, again to help with the paddling. I also like to bring a long and a shortboard with me to the beach and pick which ever board that suits the conditions. I just started to do some light stretching and workouts to help stay in decent condition. I also try to eat healthy, which is'nt the easiest thing for me, but hopefully quitting smoking when I was in my mid twenties and abstaining from alcohol and recreational drugs will help keep me in the water for a few more years. I try to not dwell on the age numbers and just live for the moment, accept what I have and hope for the best. I wish you all good waves and health. Peace.

  2. Thanks for that, Derek, always good to know how others are doing! I try not to dwell on age numbers either, but they keep sneaking up behind me and whacking me when I'm not looking hahaha!

  3. as for boards, always bring a couple,choose one for that particular day,whatever you think is best,doesn't work,come back and grab the other one.My take on fitness is that as surfers,we need a variety of workouts,one alone doesn't cut it.If we only surf,we will be in paddling shape,providing we surf most days.However,we don't use all our muscles,so we need to lift weights to hit all the muscle groups,and to put weight on our bones to keep them strong,we need to do some yoga type stretches,and cardio if not enough surf.aloha.