Can I learn to surf in middle age?

Last Updated on 28th September 2022

Of course you can.

As with any new adventure you will need to understand how it works and if it is right for you. Fundamentally any sport is available to you at any age if you have the right ingredients to undertake it and surfing is no different.

There are a number of factors to consider before embarking on your new hobby and we hope to cover them for you. The list of psychological benefits is almost indefinite including building your physical strength, confidence and can have a huge benefit on your general well-being.

You need to be able to swim

I know this is an obvious statement for a water-based activity, but this is a must and not just a little bit of doggie paddle. You will need the ability to power not just yourself but the board through some challenging conditions and your upper body strength will determine how good you are at the basics of this sport. Being a strong swimmer is highly recommended and will not just help you with your core strength but the technical side like paddling, duck diving and the pop up. Swimming at your local pool or even sea swimming is a fantastic way to not just build up your fitness levels but your upper body strength too

old surfer dude ripped

Physical fitness

Surfing is a physically demanding and strenuous activity, therefore you will need to have a good standard of fitness. I am not talking about being a marathon runner or triathlete here, but your stamina will determine how long you can practice for and the longer you stay out the faster you will learn.

A few simple exercises like swimming, push ups and even some weight work will improve your strength and flexibility which will make the paddling a much more enjoyable experience.

Book some surf lessons

There is nothing to stop you from teaching yourself at this, but you can almost guarantee that an instructor will have tips for you that are not just helpful at the beginning but all through your life on the waves.

Surfing requires a number of attributes and is an incredibly technical sport as well as physical and with the right guidance you will gain a much better understanding of not just the techniques but also the etiquette and ever-changing wave conditions.

The art of the duck dive and the pop-up are skills that have to be mastered and with the knowledge that the instructors pass on will instil a confidence in you to attempt more and more and thus achieve better results.

Surf camps or a daily surf school are a fantastic way to learn as you will have a longer and more intensive structure for getting to know the difference between the white water, rip currents and a reef break and the added bonus is you get to share time with like-minded people when you are not in the water.

Top 10 Surf Camps for Adults Worldwide (

middle aged man and son

Choosing the right board

There’s no single “right” surfboard for learning to surf, as your height and body composition both play a key role. You will probably need a larger, high-volume board such as foam boards, longboards, and mid-sized boards, but this still offers a lot 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. One further option is to practice on a variety of surfboards if you have the opportunity because as a beginner you will need the best equipment to ensure you learn how to ride the best waves.

Don’t be tempted to go online and buy an expensive board until you are comfortable with your new hobby as you will inevitably need guidance form an experienced surfer as to what to look for. The second-hand market for surf equipment is vibrant and ever changing and a great place to search for your first board.

All colours and sizes are available

Consider your location wisely

Not all beaches or surf breaks are ideal for the newcomer. Many great surf locations are only ideal for intermediate or experienced people. Yes, we would all like to enjoy the beaches of Indonesia, Costa Rica, Cornwall and even the surf mecca of Hawaii but for the learner you need a safe spot to dip your toe into. Search the internet for the best beaches in your country for learners and they will most likely have surf schools affiliated with them.


If you are lucky and live in a wonderfully warm climate you are more than likely to be able hop into the water in nothing but your favourite boardshorts or bikini but that is not a reality for most of us so a good wetsuit or “wettie” as it is known will be an essential purchase. Even hot destinations will have times when you will need to wrap up so take my advice and get yourself a good quality suit.

The main advantage is that you will be able to stay in the water longer thus your learning curve will have a higher trajectory.

Try this site for a size guide and it will also advise on thickness depending on water temperatures. The wetsuit size chart (

learning to surf in middle age


Always surf with your leash attached. You may see some more experienced guys who don’t but it is vital for the beginner as you will be falling off more than popping up.

Pay attention to flags on the beach as they will signal the surf conditions. Flags can vary from country to country but suffice to say a red flag means it is not safe to surf no matter how many people you see in the line-up.

The rules of the line-up are very important as you do not want to get in the way of experienced board riders and never drop in on somebody else’s wave.

Brush up on the awesome terminology as it is not just another language it can help out in a dangerous situation. Surfing Terms & Slang | Red Star Surf & Yoga Camp Lanzarote

Enjoy yourself

Easy to say when you are being thrown around by the ocean but that is the whole point of surfing. Relax and look around you as you are in the open air and everybody around you is having the same fun as you. With any new challenge a positive mindset will take you further and faster to your ultimate progression and help you to perform to your best ability.

Try to get friends involved as they will push you to get better and someone to share the drive or flight with. Remember you are never too old to learn.

Fun Facts

  • The first account of surfing was given in 1778 by Captain James Cook when he saw it being practiced in Hawaii.
  • The first official surfing contest took place at Corona del Mar, California in 1928.
  • The record for the longest surf ride is 3 hours, 55 minutes, set by Panamanian surfer Gary Saavedra in 2011, riding an artificial wave created by power boat.
  • Back in 1959 Linda Benson become the first woman to surf the infamous Waimea Bay at the tender age of 15! She also became the first women to be a surf magazine cover star.