I recently read the brilliant Barbarian Days and in it, William Finnegan talks about how he hit his surfing peak at 27. He also claims that he’s never seen anyone’s surfing improve as they got older, with the exception of a single one of his friends.
Now, I should point out that William’s standards are pretty high. I don’t expect he’d view anything I do in the sea as surfing. But still, I’m 33. I’ve been “surfing” in some form or other since I was 14, and I’m still really quite rubbish. I don’t feel like I’m at the stage where I want to accept that I’m going to to get worse. I want to improve, and I think that the level I’m at (i.e. low) that improving *is* totally possible.
In fact, I definitely I feel like I have improved in the last three years since I turned 30. I’ve caught all my most memorable waves in the last three years, my pop up is much more consistent and I remember to look where I’m going more of the time. The other thing that has improved is my confidence in the surf and surely the more time you spend in the sea the better you’ll be able to read the waves.
What stops you getting better?
I guess what it comes down to is what stops you improving. For me, the two main things I feel that hold me back are fitness and fear. Granted, general fitness may decline as the years go on, but there’s an element of personal control – I’m much fitter now than when I was 25, because I’ve committed to change it. I’m also learning more ways to deal with fear as I get older.
For expert surfers perhaps William’s words are true – but for the average beginner or intermediate, I’ve decided to believe improving is possible.
Things that give me hope as an over-30 surfer
- Gwyn Haslock – still surfing with gusto (I’ve surfed next to her) at 71.
- Kelly Slater – still arguably improving, and among the world’s best, at 45.
- This post by Kook Bitches, about surfing after 40.
- Joel Parkinson, who didn’t win his world title until the age of 31.
- Alexandra Florence – still dropping in on John John (and the skate park) after 40.