Robert Parker in Bali

Robert Parker in Bali
blog contributor Robert Parker Surfing Bali

Friday, July 2, 2010

"People over 50 that surf look silly."

I found an interesting website at One page has comments from older surfers about the "good old days" at Malibu. I thought some of their comments made for interesting food for thought.

It would be easy to find excuses to give up surfing after age 50 - but I'm not about to consider it! I had 23 years of making excuses - now I'm back, and I'm here to stay!

here are some excerpts. To read more, go to

I surfed for 17 years and at 35 owned two 10 ft. boards. I lived in the Santa Monica Canyon and took my board down to State Beach one afternoon to ride a few small waves. While I was out, a kid paddled out nearby. I liked to knee paddle and was paddling to catch a little wave.

The kid catches the same wave and rides toward me, cuts back and comes toward me again, all before I even stand up. By the time I get to my feet he's pulled out. He's riding a short board which has become the style. I stand up for a minute on my 10 ft. board then just fall over on my side into the shallow water and something clicks inside.

"That's it."

I've had my fun.

I prided myself for sticking with longboards when the trend shifted to little darts. I stuck to a slow smooth style and knee paddling.

I found myself mumbling things to younger more agile surfers like, "ya, I'd like to see what you're doing when you're 35".

I realized I was bitter about my own aging and how much surfing had changed over the years. It wasn't fun anymore. It got crowded. There were fights and too many people with bad attitudes.

I walked home and put my board away. One day I was out front when two young boys walked by. I said, "hey, you guys want some surfboards?" They looked at each other like "duh" and said, "Sure".

I gave them both my boards and never went surfing again.

- Tom McBride

"People over 50 that surf look silly." - TubeSteak

It was with a touch of sadness that I read your (and Tubesteak's) comments about "old guys", those past 50 and not wanting to look funny like them. Bill Bragg, one of the legends of South Bay, thinks that you have completely missed the point. I agree with him.

Why did you take up surfing to begin with? Most everyone I know took it up because it was "fun". When you were a kid, you rode the roller coaster because it was fun. Surfing is fun. Skiing is fun. Sky diving is fun. If surfing is fun, why should you really care what someone you never met (and would never "hang with") thinks about your fun? Do you for one minute think that the kid that took off on the short board and made two maneuvers before you got to your feet gave any thought to you on that wave past the end of that fateful day. He did not.

Ironically, long boarding is back in favor. Lots of people still surf the short boards, but I suspect that more surfers favor the long board. My kids, now in their 30's started on short boards and got very good. They are now riding long boards because frankly its more enjoyable if you're not surfing everyday and have a life out of the water.

As an aside, Kemp, Higgison, Gary Teller, L.J. Richards, George Carr, Bragg, and a few more guys are over 60 and still have incredible game. They don't look funny at all. Let's face it, surfing is one sport that is healthy, safe, cheap and immediately available to those of us who live on the coast. So Tom. I've got a couple of extra boards and wet suits. What's say we meet for a session at the Point in Ventura. Pray for surf.

- Bill Hinkle

My conclusion about surfing is that it's not like riding a bicycle (which stays with you all of your life). It's a sport that seems to require continuous work and involvement to keep the skills in place. - jon ebeling

I went down to Carlsbad with my mom when I was 15 or 16 (can't remember) and went down to Tamarack for the first time. That was truly an experience I will never forget.

I paddled out into a chatter of older men all on longboards. Being rather young and a feeling awkward I hesitated to initiate any kind of conversation. The waves were rather nice that day about 4-6 ft with nice shape. When a set rolled in I wasn't in great position but I went for a decent left anyway.

To my suprise as I was paddling for the wave I heard cheers coming from behind me and when I finally got up I looked to see and hear the older men cheering for me. I think I cracked an enormous smile than proceded to fall as I tried to cutback. When I paddled back out some of the men smiled at me and said, "nice ride". I was blown away by their kindness.

No one cared that I had never surfed there before. In fact I began to make friends with a 30 year old car salesman who frequented the spot. To say the least I was stoked. And even though I fell on that wave it represented a turning point in my outlook on surfing.

Previously when I surfed I had a hard time relaxing and being happy unless I was performing well. I had learned that you don't talk to locals from a few bad experiences I had had surfing at the pier in San Clemente. But after surfing at Tamarack I realized the true point in my surfing. I began to surf because I loved it and because I enjoyed everything about it. No longer was I concerned with how I performed. No longer did I believe that a negative attitude toward any non-locals was required.

To me those guys at Tamarack and the old timers at Old Mans that are so kind to youngblood truly represent the spirit of what surfing should be. I read a quote somewhere that stated what I believe surfing should be. The author was talking about how surfing culture has changed and how the surf culture of old focused on fun, mutual enjoyment and respect for the coastal environment.

It's really sad to see the state our world is in. People killing one another because their beliefs differ, people letting pollution infest our water, air, and earth, and on top of all that some people can't even find it in their hearts to share the waves. Well I hope that this has touched your soul and changed the world (just kidding). I think the world, at least the surfing world, would be much better off if everyone adopted an attitude like the guys at Tamarack.

Sincerely, Zach Wordes

The victim was DOA at the hospital.
Get out of the water and be a legend.



  1. I'm 61 and I still ride short board. Well, it's a 6'0" fish. It's not always easy because I don't paddle as well as I used to and I get out of shape really fast, but when the stars are aligned correctly I can still get some fun waves. I refuse to give up on the feeling of pumping down the line, coming off the bottom and hitting the lip that only a short board offers. I have little interest in long boarding, except as a defensive weapon to get some waves on crowded days. I understand why most of my peers ride long boards, but I absolutely despise kids who ride them.I just returned from a 3 week trip to Puerto Rico. The crowds were insane. Long boards, paddle boards and lunatic kooks in surf schools made getting waves at the popular point breaks impossible. But when I went around the point to shallow, harder breaking wave with an urchin covered coral reef bottom I was able to get all I wanted. I took my lumps, no doubt, I admit. I don't ride big waves anymore. I don't think I could handle the hold-downs and the paddling. There are days when my back is so bad I can't even get to my feet or if I do, it ain't pretty to watch... and then I do "look silly". But, so frigging what? One zippy little barrel or a nice backside off the lip makes all the frustration well worth while. I feel like I'm playing with house money at this point anyway. All the little things about surfing I took for granted or was annoyed by for so many years are a joy for me now. Just paddling out, duck diving through waves, scratching for the horizon when a big set is coming, walking back to my truck in the evening after a session, feeling that wonderful exhaustion that only surfing has ever given me are things I treasure . The thing is, don't sell yourself short because you're older. Make the effort to get in shape and stay there. Just surf alot. Screw obnoxious little groms. Some of them aren't so bad anyway. I had a kid paddle up to me and tell me how good my turns were. Made my day. I mean, let's face it, most of like compliments. And any encouragement we get at this point is welcome, no? Most of all, ignore the old man that is in all of us. Ignore your buddies who try and discourage you because they can't or won't surf anymore. Misery loves company. Listen to the little kid who still mind surfs every wave he sees, no matter how small. Just do me a favor and give old farts like me on shorter boards a wave once in awhile... W. Ritzert

  2. I'm nearly 58 and sometimes surf with a friend who's 59, but usually, I surf by myself. I've been surfing since 1964, starting with a 11' board, which I was too small to turn. By the time I grew up, boards started getting shorter, and I stuck with 7'2" boards until I turned 40, when I went to longer boards. A couple of years ago, I got me a 6'8" Firewire, which outperformed any board I'd ever ridden!

    Only problem is that now I sometimes take too long to get to my feet, due to past accidents while parachuting and water skiing. But I still love surfing, and anyone who thinks surfers are too old at 50 should remember that when and if THEY ever get to 50! There's no reason at all to stop, just because you get to a certain age. Your body will tell you when you can't do it any more!

    1. hey dude im 40 and i have never surfed but the desire to do so gets stronger every day.

  3. My mate learned at 52. Now 54 he's shakey but surfing (!)

  4. Im 56 , Hadnt surfed for 35 years. A mate was throwing out a 9 foot Mal so I grabbed it. Went out for a grovel and caught a few waves. Now Im hooked and gave up work to surf every day I can. Now riding a 7.6 mini mal and after 1 year can get barrels, do turns . I love surfing again and couldn't care less what anyone thinks.
    Your a long time looking up at the lid. I get hammered in 6 foot plus surf, but get out there anyway. What a way to die,

  5. Between 1966 and 1974 I was known as Beatle Tom. Me and my West coast Florida surfing friends would gather about 2am after dropping off our girl friends and head to the Florida East coast where there were waves to ride. Now days I am working on my bucket list, having had open heart surgery, arthritis and a host of other soon to be 65 disorders. I have already check motorcycle, and rock band off the bucket list and ready to surf again. I purchased a used long board from Joe at Sun Coast Surf Shop, the same guy I bought my other two boards from back in the day. He is now 72 and tells me I'm not too old to surf again. Camping at Jetty Park next month (in my old folk rig, the RV) to check off surfing from the bucket list. I will post again after to let everyone know how it went.