Why Surfing Could Change Your Health and Your Head – Regardless of Your Age
I’m grateful I was such a terrible athlete in high school. I wished I could sit it out on the bleachers with the other handful of girls who went to great length to avoid the awkwardness and embarrassment of changing clothes, doing weird new things, and sucking at everything. Hurdles were impossible. Running a mile was miserable. Dodgeball was painful. Gymnastics was just crazy. But I did it, as best I could, anyway.
Fast forward. By my late 30s I had gained 60 pounds in my pregnancy and I clearly had to do something. I started walking to the mailbox and back until month after month I walked farther. I began trying to hike a portion of bump and grind until I could do it in its entirety, then graduated into hiking mountains.
In my 40s I started to go to a gym and learned to ride a bike. In my 50s I learned to swim and do yoga. The humiliation of high school athletics and being one of the worst participants in everything I did was a great foundation for the rest of my life. I haven’t been afraid to try new things, I have no expectation of being a great at anything new, I expect it to be work, and I know it will make me live longer, be happier, and I’ve improved my sense of humor by continually laughing at myself and the silly things I’m willing to try.
So why not take up surfing at 60? When my friends asked me wide-eyed why I’m not scared of drowning in crashing waves, I tell them to pick smaller waves! It’s important to diversify your physical activities to prevent burn out, adjust for weather and climate, have flexibility when you travel, and just have fun.
And fun it is! Being outdoors in fresh air and water is great just to start with. Focusing on the art of moving with waves is a mindful meditation and a discipline in patience and focus. A large foam board is soft and easier to balance then what you see surfers on 20’ waves riding. You begin by sitting in still water learning to open your hips and control your board with your leges making it an excellent stretching and strengthening activity. You then learn to paddle while lying on the board; an exercise in both stretching and strengthening upper back, shoulders, neck, and arms. Initially, you ride the waves lying on the board intuitively learning balance, and feeling the joy of riding the wave! Then sit up, rest, and paddle again, improving your cardiovascular ability while building strength. This in itself is enough.
When and if, you are ready to start standing on the board, you combine body weight strength training and functional movement to get from lying flat to a standing/squatting position building strength in both your arms and your legs. I practiced doing this “pop up” in a gym and it’s actually easier on the board. Standing up on the board feels very much like yoga, working on flexibility, balance, posture, and breath. And your sense of humor. It’s yoga practice not yoga perfect!!!
Charissa Farley-Hay lives in Indian Wells and Kauai. She loves food and wine, yoga, surfing, and fitness, plants as medicine, foraging, and innovating gourmet culinary preparation of local and uncommon plants. Wildest Restaurant offers grass fed beef, pasture raised poultry, wild seafood, a third of the menu plant-based, gluten and allergen free-offerings, live music, hand-crafted cocktails and mocktails, and a wine spectator award. Coachella Yoga is yoga for everyone.