5 Life-Lessons from Starting to Surf in my 40's

     Almost 7 years ago I have had ONE surf lesson, when at the tender age of 42 a drastic family shift, forced me to take charge of my husband's small and charming surf school in Macao Beach, Punta Cana. 

One lesson... Ever! And that lesson was many years prior. Back then surfing felt too hard, too technical, and above all, life-threatening!

Almost 20 years and two kids after that lesson, here I was, staring at the ocean and wondering, “How on earth am I supposed to do this?” I didn't particularly like surfing, and I wasn't enjoying the idea of being "forced" into it. I knew all I needed to know about this sport. Or so I thought...

I preferred, a million times better, to put on my running shoes and walk out the door, or grab my bike and hit the road. 

From the shore, for a couple of months, I managed the surf school, and observed from a distance how our instructors worked their magic and how excited our clients were after their lessons. 

But I was becoming intrigued by how everyone loved the thrill of surfing and how often I was told "You are so lucky to be able to come to the beach and have this as your life!". "Really? Was I lucky? I don't even surf!” I thought to myself.
One day, I decided to not be a bystander anymore. I was in a decent physical shape and maybe surfing would feel different this time. “Let me try again”, I finally convinced myself. 
The school's instructors made it their mission to make me a surfer, and transferred all their knowledge and passion for the sport to my reluctant 42-year-old self.

I don't even know how to explain this, but the moment I stood on the surfboard and rode my first wave, I promised myself, not only to learn it, but learn properly. I realized that having the right instruction, the right equipment, and the right conditions made all the difference! 

Being competitive by nature, now I wanted to learn fast and become really good, and ride bigger waves, and ride short boards, and do tricks, and become the queen of the beach! Little did I know, that the upcoming lessons would turn out to be THE REAL surf lessons!

Surfing is not only a challenge to the body. Believe me when I say that the biggest challenge in learning to surf is within yourself. 

Photo: Punta Cana Surf Adventure

1.   Stop wondering if you can do something and just do it! You will never know if you never try - at least twice. 

I was full of prejudice against myself and the sport: "I'm not young, I don't have strong arms, I don't like swimming that much, I have bad balance, I don't like saltwater in my eyes, I don't like the sand in my bikini!".... And on and on... I had made up my mind after one bad experience. Fortunately, the pleasure I got out of surfing those first waves, erased all those excuses forever. I wanted more, and realized that I had been missing-out on so much fun, just because I kept justifying in my head why I shouldn't do it.

2.   2.   Your body will take you wherever you want to go.

I seriously thought that I needed to be a skinny, ripped 18-year-old to do this. And guess what? At 42 (or older – as I am now) your body can easily do this and more! You have to put in the work. Train out of the water, feed yourself properly and practice. Isn't this the same as with anything else you want to achieve in life? Understand your strengths and weaknesses, and work around them.

3. 3.    You don't have to be the best out there. Just be the best you can be.
I compared myself to everybody else. Imagine the level of frustration! But I realized that nobody else was like me. I was unique in my own way. The joy I get out of every little progress made in surfing is ridiculously amazing! You soon realize that it does not matter what everybody else is doing, just overcoming your own challenges is the biggest reward you could have, and it is empowering!

    4.    At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you are happy!
Surfing will teach you this from day one! No matter how good or bad you do, at the end of any surf session you feel so happy, that you may not have surfed one single wave and still feel accomplished and fulfilled.

5. 5.    Give up control and be humble.
When you are out in the ocean, you realize how small you are and how powerful that big mass of water is.  The ocean tells you through every wave, that you don't know what is coming. You learn to make quick decisions and adapt. You have no control over the waves and the conditions. Just work with whatever comes your way and go with the (literal) flow.

I will never tire of saying this over and over: the beauty of surfing is that you never stop learning, you are constantly challenging your body and your mind. This is why surfers want to ride waves until the day we die. It keeps us always wondering, curious and learning, and isn't this one of the best things to have in life? The motivation to keep going, keep trying, keep fighting?

After years of surfing full time, I am far from being and doing all those things that I wanted to be and do when I started surfing. However, learning to surf this late in life, makes me love every single step of the process I have gone through. 

I have realized that older adults may not know what they are missing, thinking that they are too old to learn to surf, as I once did.

Surfing has completely transformed the way I see myself, my life and my future. I really hope to inspire you to give yourself a chance to do the same, no matter what excuse you are currently placing in front of you not to do it. And by "it", I am not referring to surfing, but to anything that it may apply to in your life. 

Saskya is the owner of Punta Cana Surf Adventure and can be found eagerly sharing her surfing experience and teaching on Macao Beach, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. She can be reached through her profile on this blog.


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