Learning to Surf at 40, 50, and Beyond

January 18, 2022

Learning to surf at 40, 50, and beyond may feel like a daunting task. But you’re never too old to fall in love with something new, particularly when it’s something as rewarding and inviting as surfing. 

You might be surprised to hear that many older adults learn to surf later in life. We see a lot of that here at Beach Break Surf Camp in Panama, where we’ve had the privilege of hosting people learning to surf at 40, 50, and even through their 60s and beyond. 

We even have a term for them– Silver Surfersand groups of older adults who return to Beach Break for senior surfing vacations every year.

If you’re interested in learning to surf at 40, 50, and beyond, there are a few things you can do to simplify your journey. Keep these tips in mind to help you stay safe, have fun, and feel confident when learning to surf as an older adult. 

Three people heading into the water to surf.

Be a confident swimmer 

Being a confident swimmer is an absolute must for learning to surf in your 40s, 50s, and beyond. Or really, at any age. Even the best surfers will find themselves in the water, whether they fall off their board unexpectedly or make a clean exit from a well-ridden wave. 

It’s not enough to be able to doggy-paddle or stay afloat in a swimming pool. You need to be a strong swimmer, comfortable with various techniques and capable of doing laps in open water. 

If you’re learning to surf in your 40s and beyond, consider adding swimming to your exercise routine– ideally in open water, though a pool is better than nothing at all. 

A woman surfing next to another surfer laying on the board.

Be in decent physical shape 

If you’re interested in learning to surf in your 40s and beyond, it’s likely you’re already in pretty good physical shape. No one looks at surfing and thinks what a relaxing and easy sport it must be, so chances are you’re aware of the physicality and up for the challenge. 

However, even those in decent physical shape should consider doing specific surf training. Surfing is a full-body workout, requiring great endurance, balance, as well as strength. Luckily, some of the best exercises for surfing are ones you already know– chin-ups, pushups, burpees, squats, and stamina-increasing exercises such as running drills and (of course) swimming laps.

A surfer lesson in action.

Take surfing lessons 

You will have a much easier time learning to surf in your 40s, 50s, and beyond with the help of surfing lessons. In fact, anyone learning to surf will fare much better with formal surf lessons, rather than just paddling out and hoping for the best.

Surfing is an incredibly nuanced sport, requiring careful physical technique as well the ability to read the waves and consider ever-changing surfing conditions. It’s not impossible to teach yourself surfing, but your progress will be a lot slower, more frustrating, and potentially dangerous. If you’re serious about learning to surf, commit to taking surfing lessons– ideally more than one– so you have every advantage on your side.

Two women and a man taking a photo with their surfboards.

Find an instructor that’s worked with older adults 

Learning to surf in your 40s and beyond can feel different than learning to surf as a twenty-something. You may have a different level of physical fitness, a backlog of injuries to consider, or a different level of risk appetite. If your surf instructor primarily works with kids and young adults, they may not be the best fit for you.

A surf instructor who is familiar with working with older adults will be more privy to your unique needs, mindset, and potential limitations. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll take it easy on you, but they will likely be more sensitive to your needs and have experience in working around them. Our instructors here at Beach Break regularly work with older adults learning to surf, and know how to accommodate the particular needs, concerns, and mindsets that they often have.

A surfboard placed upright during sunset.

Choose the right board 

When you’re learning to surf in your 40s and beyond, you don’t need to make things harder on yourself with a less-than-ideal board. The surfboard you choose will have a huge impact on how easy (or not) it will be to paddle, catch waves, and remain balanced. 

There’s no single “right” surfboard for learning to surf, as your height and body composition both play a key role. You will probably be best served by larger, high-volume boards such as foam boards, longboards, and mid-sized boards, but this still offers a ton of variety. Ideally, your surf camp or instructor will have a variety of surfboards to try out and a thoughtful instructor who can help pick the best board for you.

An older gentleman surfing the waves.

Consider booking a surf camp

Learning to surf in your 40s, 50s, and beyond won’t happen with a single surf lesson. Surfing is a difficult sport to learn and a harder one to master. Even the most talented students (young or older) benefit from having a consistent period in which they can learn and practice.

Rather than booking a single surf lesson– or even a handful of them, scheduled days or weeks apart– consider booking a week or two at a surf camp like Beach Break. 

Here, you can learn to surf under the guidance of our seasoned instructors and practice every day– even multiple times a day. We’re located right on the beach, directly in front of one of the best beginner surf breaks the region has to offer. You can wake up and in a few footsteps walk directly into the waves– or sit and watch the waves roll in as you enjoy a meal at our beachfront restaurant or relax by our beachfront pool. 

Crashing waves with seaguls.
Beach Break Surf camp look outside.
Beach Break Surf Camp pool area.

Choose your location carefully 

Not every surf spot is ideal for learning to surf in your 40s and beyond– or for learning to surf at all! Many surf spots are only appropriate for intermediate and advanced surfers, due to the ominous size and speed of the waves. Others are known to have sharp coral, large rocks, or dangerous sea creatures, making falling off your board a risky (and inevitable event). 

Some popular surf destinations may offer suitable conditions– but because they’re so popular, the line-ups get frustratingly (even dangerously) crowded and the area becomes a chaotic party environment.  

Look for surf destinations that are ideal for beginners, such as our location in Playa Venao, Panama. We are privileged to have a unique variety of waves including smaller, slower waves that are perfect for learning and larger, faster waves that are a bit further out (when you’re ready for them). 

Playa Venao is still a bit undiscovered compared to larger destinations in Mexico and Costa Rica, meaning you won’t be fighting for waves in the line-up. And while you can certainly find a good party in Venao, we keep things pretty quiet and family-friendly here at Beach Break. After all, many of us enjoy paddling out to surf at first light.

An older gentleman surfing the waves.

Maintain a positive mindset 

Like many things in life, so much of surfing is mental. It’s a hard sport to learn, and it’s easy to get frustrated. It can also be intimidating, as countless waves approach and wash over you, sometimes holding you down for longer than you’d like.

Having the right mindset will play a huge role in learning to surf in your 40s, 50s, and beyond. In fact, everyone can benefit from approaching surfing with a positive mindset, mindful awareness, and an air of acceptance. No wonder so many surfers also practice meditation and other mental-strength sports like jiu jitsu (both of which we offer at Beach Break). A determined, focused, and positive mindset will go a long way in helping you learn and progress in surfing. 

Two women heading out to surf with their surfboards.

Get some friends to surf with! 

Learning to surf in your 40s, 50s, and beyond is fun– but it’s even more fun when you have good people to learn and travel with! Consider including some friends or loved ones in your journey to learning to surf– no matter their age or previous interest! You might just be the one who introduces them to their new favorite thing in life– and you’ll doubtless make some life-long memories by learning to surf together. 

You might even make new friends while learning to surf in your 40s and beyond– whether they’re part of your surf camp, someone you meet on your travels, or another surfer you befriend out in the water. While there will always be exceptions, surfers tend to be friendly, open, and kind-hearted people. You might be surprised how quickly an age difference can melt away when you’re enjoying the waves– and one another’s company– out on the water.

An older lady surfing the waves.

Learning to surf in your 40s, 50s, and beyond at Beach Break

Beach Break is the perfect place for learning to surf in your 40s, 50s, and beyond. We regularly cater to older adults who are learning to surf for the first time, whether by themselves, with their families, or with other would-be Silver Surfers who are embarking on their journey together. 

If you’re interested in learning to surf in your 40s and beyond, browse our surf camp packages or reach out with your questions or curiosities. We are ready and waiting to help you arrange your ideal surf vacation– and begin your next great chapter in life!

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