One of the first things any surfer will tell you is that surfing is a lifestyle rather than a hobby or sport. It’s only natural that growing older is all part of the journey for a passionate lifelong surfer.
While experienced older surfers who have maintained their fitness might ride a quiver of boards, most older surfers (over 55 years) do better on voluminous, wide, and long surfboards which offer additional stability and paddling power such as funboards, mini-mals, and longboards.
In this post, I go over what makes a good board for an older surfer, and we look at some examples of surfboards that work well for this crowd.
Why do older surfers need special surfboards?
As we get older (+55 years) our body’s metabolism and muscle mass reduce while our joints stiffen drastically. With lost muscle mass and flexibility, surfers begin to lose explosiveness for popping up and paddling power.
While older surfers should engage in daily stretching and flexibility exercises (such as swimming, yoga, and Pilates) as well as core muscle exercises (such as weight training), changing your equipment is another important step.
In this sense, older surfers should choose a surfboard that helps ease their pop-up and paddling ability, to help them get into the pocket of the wave at the right time.
Surfing muscle memory is strong, and once an older surfer is up and going, it’s hard to forget the movement of a shortboard snap or a longboard carve.
Board characteristics for older surfers
From high-performance shortboards to floaty longboards, every surfer aged 55+ may have different preferences for a surfboard depending on age group, stamina, fitness, and past injuries – as well as preferred surfing style and given wave conditions.
Here are a few examples of surfboards characteristics that work well for older surfers:
|59 yo||6’4″||20.5″||2 5/8″||35.8 L|
|66 yo – 80 kg||6′ to 6’8″|
|66 yo||7’9″||21 3/4″||3/18″|
|59 yo – 55 kg||5’9″||29 L|
|55 yo+||21.5″||3 1/2″|
Let’s look at some of the most common traits found in surfboards picked by older surfers.
High-performance boards are usually narrow towards the nose and have less volume than the average older surfer might want. This lack of volume makes it more challenging to paddle into waves and to balance when popping up.
The more volume a board has, the easier it is to paddle into waves, and the more stable it is to stand on.
Higher volume makes the paddling easier because the board is supporting you better. More volume makes it easier to catch waves, and help you in smaller waves once you are riding. On the other hand, volume can make a board more difficult to turn and maneuver.
For smaller boards, a a volume of at least 35 liters generally works best for older surfers. A longboard might have 70 liters of volume.
One popular option among aging surfers is high-performance softboards. These allow you to catch a lot of waves, work great in slower waves yet help your turns in hollow waves. The extra volume of the foam give you added paddling power.
Alternatively Epoxy and EPS glassed boards can offer a bit more float for the same dimensions.
Longer surfboards for older surfers
Just like more volume, more length for a surfboard helps with paddling power and stability at popup and in the wave.
Especially on smaller days, or with heavy offshore wind making it difficult to catch a wave, a longer board – which generally will have more volume towards the nose – will be able to push through the conditions and get you into the wave earlier and more easily.
Longboards are typically over 8′ long with a wide nose for additional balance and stability.
Alternatively, a ‘gun’ is an elongated shortboard with added volume, a narrow nose, and a pinned-in tail. These boards are designed for big waves (15′ +) yet can offer a lot of stability for older surfers in any conditions.
Guns typically are between 33 and 45 liters in volume and 9 to 11 feet in length. They offer similar advantages to a longboard while being a lot more maneuverable, albeit slightly less stable
Wide surfboards for older surfers
Wide boards range from beginner-friendly funboards and mini-mals to high-performance shortboards. A board 21”½ wide x 3”½ thick will generally offer enough stability for an older rider to get going on with less effort.
Shortboards with exaggerated dimensions, e.g. 6’2″ x 22″ wide, are a popular option for advanced and relatively fit older surfers who like to rip up cutbacks and roundhouses. They offer the same paddling benefits as a longboard while maintaining a lot of agility on a wave.
These boards can work well for some older surfers in more advanced conditions, e.g. where there is a need for solid duck diving and quick maneuvering through crowded line-ups. Be aware, though, that they can put a lot of pressure on knees and back over time.
Some older surfers prefer to go wider rather than thicker to get the extra volume they need. On boards too thick, wave entry can be harder and the board may feel like it catches on turns or hangs up in the lip.
While a thruster setup (three fins of the same size) generally provides predictability and balance on a shortboard, mini-mal, or funboard in a range of conditions, older surfers often tweak their fin set-up to increase a surfboard’s agility and/or stability.
The smaller your fins, the more ease of movement you will experience. Older guys riding a performance shortboard might benefit from balancing the agility of the board with larger, more supportive fins, which dig into the wave more substantially.
Swapping your outer thruster fins for a smaller size while keeping a full-sized central fin (2+1 set-up) will give an older rider a little more push in unpredictable, choppy waves, allowing them to twist and torque the board more easily.
While this is great for smaller, non-consequential waves, it can put some unwanted pressure on one’s knees and lower back, however.
A longboard single-fin setup will ease up maneuverability for advanced log riders, albeit at the expense of lower control when paddling into small to medium waves.
Twin fin setups can work well for an older surfer on a smaller board in small to medium surf. These fins will make for higher board speed due to lack of drag while improving stability in turns.
Some surfboard recommendations for older surfers
Liquid Lines 7’6” (mini-mal)
Liquid Lines, shaped by JS Shapes, is a great option if you’re looking for a mini-mal. It has a rounded nose with added volume, which weighs the front of the board down as you paddling into waves. It’s easy to paddle and with its pulled-in tail design, is fast and agile on a clean wave.
This is more of a beginner’s board with little rocker which won’t excite an advanced older surfer. That said, the wide shape and high volume can do wonders for heavier aging riders who need a little bit of extra support and stability when popping up.
Brett Munro 7’10” (funboard)
Munro is known for shaping boards that combine progressive and old school. His funboard-inspired shapes mesh the maneuverability of a fish with the strong paddle power of a longboard.
These boards are shorter in size yet have a ton of volume, which helps with paddling into waves as well as offering a surprising amount of push for the size.
Pieter Custom Pie Burger 7’ (funboard)
The Pie Burger has a wide shape and surface area, giving a lot of forwarding projection and speed for both paddling and riding. It has little to no rocker. With so little lift from nose to tail, it provides a very forgiving feel for older surfers.
The 5 fin setup, with larger fins at the front and smaller at the back, joined by a small stabilizer fin in the middle socket, is most popular. This helps dig the back of the board into the water, offering a lot of stability for turning and making it difficult to slide out.
Mayhem Lost Puddle Jumper
The Puddle Jumper takes influence from a squat fish board. It has an abundance of foam distributed throughout the center and nose of the board, and a pulled-in narrow tail. This board offers good paddle and driving speed and can work well for a fit surfer in his/her 50s.
Not a true high performance surfboard, the Jumper is very versatile and works well for a fit rider in his/her 50s up to slightly overhead waves. The 5’8 version has dimensions is 21.5″ wide and 2.63″ thick, with a volume of 37L.
Hobie Peter Pan Slug
The Hobie Peter Pan Slug is a good option for older surfers who have limited fitness and energy levels or are recovering from injury and need to use their knees to popup, yet are still able to catch a lot of waves.
The 8’6″ Surftech version is a molded-epoxy that can handle the knee pressures. With a really full build, it has a thick nose and tail comparable to many of the longboards older guys ride.
This board is no longer produced but can be found second hand.
NSP Soft School Wide
NSP’s Soft School Wide Surfboard has dramatic volume and thickness and a wide shape, giving it overboard stability for balance on small waves. The 8’4 version is 23 2/3″ wide x 3 3/4″ thick for a volume of 94.6 liters.
Designed for beginners, it’s not ideal for turning and lacks the agility and quick rail to rail ability many riders seek, but is often a good choice for older surfers with low fitness levels or health issues.
The padded surface protects older knees and hips when paddling and popping-up.
Many bigger older riders feel quite comfortable on longboards. With a naturally long and wide shape, these boards paddle fast and can catch waves before they even break.
Longboards knee paddle well, and modern longboards perform quite well. For an older surfer, look for a longboard 9′ to 9’4 long and 3″ thick, with a square or squash tail and a 2+1 fin setups. Choose an Epoxy EPS board for lighter weight.
If you’re a healthy and fit aging surfer who spends a decent amount of time in the water, your best bet would be to get a custom surfboard shaped for your particular weight and dimensions.
When weighing up paddling power and stability against quick turns and agility, we need to accept our changing stamina and adjust our surfboard choices to help us catch as many waves as possible.
Another option would be to transition to a stand-up paddleboard (SUP), which can be a great alternative for those with or recovering from injuries.