Photos: Camilla Fuchs
What is age appropriate anyway?
As director of guest services at Las Olas, a common question I hear is, “I’m 50 (or 57, or 66). Am I too old to learn to surf?” The answer is an emphatic NO! You’re asking this question because you want to try something new and exciting. Something that’s been in your back pocket for years but life got so busy that you left it there. Perhaps you’re starting that next phase in your life –– the children are out of the house, you’re retiring soon, you just went through a divorce, or you want to reconnect with your best friend. Or you simply want to rediscover your inner girl. (Remember her?)
I have to admit, turning 50 wasn’t easy for me. As the birthday approached and the night sweats were at their peak, I began exercising obsessively to fight my growing bathing suit insecurity. The sunscreen foolishly ignored in my youth in favor of the perfect golden tan was now slathered on obsessively.
I agonized over “age appropriate” clothing, haircuts, and make-up. I began to see the allure of a caftan on the beach instead of a bikini, sneakers over heels. Trying to walk the line between too young and too old made me indecisive, something I’d never been.
And right in the middle of my identity crisis, my only child moved to Oregon to finish college and I found myself a bit adrift. Who exactly was I now? What was my role in my own life? My husband and I had successfully raised a good, decent human to send into the world, but going from active participant to spectator in her life was indeed bittersweet.
Work in progress
Since that 50th birthday, I’m still a work in progress, but I love exactly where I am in life. I travel regularly to Mexico and Europe, with (hallelujah!) no school schedules to consider. I’m alive. I’m healthy. I have time to cook and read. I have confidence that I never owned at 25. I’m a grown woman, and rather than feeling invisible, I’m embracing this older face and body which has seen so much love, life, and joy.
I’m not winning the war against the wrinkles and a softer body, but I don’t really care anymore. I just try to rock that one-piece with style and a little grace. There’s no place that I’d rather be than right now.
So, should you learn to surf after 50? Heck yeah! Right now is the exact right time. You’re not even close to being done.
But don’t just take my word for it. Read what our guests have to say below.
Director of Guest Services at Las Olas
“Putting aside my age and my fears, my sister and I ventured to Las Olas. Splashing around in the water, laughing, having fun, and being so supported and cheered on by a group of wonderful women, both instructors and guests, my fears vanished and that little girl who loved the water resurfaced.
“In surfing, there is this particular moment. You are paddling. You know you have timed the wave right. You pop up. And you ride. For a split second, you realize your mind, your body, and your surfboard are one with that wave. That feeling is almost spiritual, and it is this feeling that will make you want to turn around and do it all over again.”
“I was worried about going alone. I was worried about leaving my family for a week. I felt selfish spending money on just me. I was scared I’d be cold and uncomfortable. But that’s what it’s about –– getting outside your comfort zone. I took a deep breath, sat back and thought … well, I did THAT! But I can honestly say it was one of the most memorable and valuable experiences of my 53 years. I found a strength and a perspective that I really needed. I was worth it.
“If you keep challenging yourself, no matter how old you are, you will usually feel inspired in many different areas of your life, and take more risks. Once you overcome one mental barrier, you are more willing to take on others. Las Olas gives you the opportunity to do something different in a beautiful place with beautiful souls.”
“Would I be the oldest one? The clumsiest one? Would I be strong enough to take on the physical and psychological challenges involved? My anxieties proved to be unfounded as I discovered a group of women of all ages and differing surf backgrounds.
“There is a child-like glee in learning a new skill later in life. The sense of freedom on the waves makes all the petty annoyances of daily “grownup” life fade into the distance. Overcoming fear of the unknown was a true positive for me as I struggled with never having been on a surfboard in my life until the age of 52.”
“What a gift to have been able to discover surfing in my middle-age. I often wonder if I ever would have tried in my younger years, intimidated by the shortboard craze and the male macho image of the 1980s.
“I’m on a surf trip RIGHT NOW. Surfing with Las Olas changed my life!”
“Even though Las Olas was my first solo vacation ever, my worries didn’t rest in traveling or meeting new people or even learning to surf…the scariest part for me was being in a bathing suit with a bunch of people who were sure to be younger and more fit than me. Those concerns disappeared by the end of the first day.
“From the warm welcome at the airport through the final morning surf, I felt completely at ease as if I was with old friends…instructors and fellow travelers too… these wonderful, supportive women will cheer you on riding the tiniest of waves!”
“The first two times, I went by myself and wasn’t very confident that I would fit in or be able to do it, especially as I was already in my 40s at the time and had never surfed. I was worried I would embarrass myself. I also had a bit of fear of what lurks beneath the surfboard! Thankfully, that disappeared once I actually got on the board.
“Las Olas offers a very low pressure environment and I really like that all the instructors are women. Women understand how we think and the fears we have. They don’t bring any ego to surfing and are not intimidating. I don’t really want to surf with anyone else.”
“Being brave enough to try things even when we’re scared is what I have found the coaches to be so helpful with – there’s no judgement, no pressure, no harshness or dismissiveness.
“The instructors were so compassionate, supportive, and understanding, and helped me find that girl inside – the one who loved the feel of the wind in her face when she got up on the board, and the one who knew life was full, and rich, and deserved to be experienced in all its glory. Overcoming my fears and establishing that healthy respectful awareness of the ocean helped me to do the same in my personal life – to me, that’s the epitome of inspiration, and why I have fallen back in love with surfing.”
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