It feels somewhat counterintuitive to contemplate taking up a sport like surfing in your sixties. Anyone who ever tried that tricky obsession when relatively young (even once!) knows it rewards all the physical characteristics we oldsters tend to lack: balance, endurance, flexibility, strength and – above all – the ability to stand up quickly from a prone position into an unstable standing position. Not easy even as a teen!!
Dreams Don’t Die
However compelling the old Beach Boys favourite ‘Surfin’ Safari’ continues to be as a reminder of a misspent youth, the idea of considering a pastime emblematic of washboard stomachs, ice-cold beers and a free-and-beachy lifestyle as an appropriate athletic sideline for seniors may seem far-fetched.
But, as we all know, our personal dreams never really die. And they’re achievable, at least if Jeanne Keith-Farris of Ucluelet – a township on the west coast of Vancouver Island – is anyone to go by.
As reported recently in a spirited story in The Globe and Mail it was there, “in the sand and surf of the Pacific Ocean, that her surfing dreams were reignited.”
A native of California, Ms. Keith-Farris spent most of her working life in land-locked places such as Colorado and Calgary where the closest thing to surfing was downhill skiing. But when her working years came to an end, and she and her husband retired to the west coast of Vancouver Island where the surf roars in from the Pacific Ocean – hey presto! – she was hooked on the sport once again.
“It’s a little daunting, starting, because I would have been 56 or so then,” she was reported as saying. As Ms. Keith-Farris recalls, she played around in the surf for the first few years, but these nominal encounters lacked the edge that only the real thing delivers: “That was not cutting it,” she concedes, “that was not surfing.”
Then came that cool precipitating incident which truly re-energized her passion for the sport: “A few months before my 60th birthday I caught my first so-called green wave (an unbroken wave, the kind you see in surf pictures) and just got hooked on it,” she was reported as saying.
“You get that one wave out there that one day and you’ve just got to find that magic again because it feels so amazing. And I won’t get them as often as some of the younger kids, but it keeps happening and I keep going for more, trying to find that elusive better wave.”
Ms. Keith-Farris is 65 now, and the proud owner of seven surfboards. She hits the waves nearly every day when the weather cooperates and has introduced her daughter to the sport. She inspired her daughter to learn and together they have gone three times to a surfing school – Las Olas Surf – in Las Olas, Mexico.
“I built up strength and endurance, and then became obsessed with getting better,” she says. “I do keep improving and that’s what keeps me going out. It’s slow progress at this stage in my life.”
The great thing about surfing is that the physical preparation for the sport delivers benefits that extend far beyond the sport itself.
Regardless of age, Ms. Keith-Farris “advises those who want to learn to prepare by starting with some basic yoga stretches, including lunges and forward folds, and some arm strengthening exercises such as arm circles and push-ups or planks.”
“Anything that gets that upper body strong because the paddling is really what takes it out of you,” she was quoted as saying.
What a fun way to stay in shape!