• Susannah Hart

Rise of the Silver Surfer

Surfing is not just something for the young and nubile!

I’m up! An involuntary squeal passes my lips and the shock that I have actually made it to my feet leads to a very ill advised and poorly timed straightening of my legs. The next second I am hurtling head first into the foaming whitewash only to appear moments later coughing and spluttering, but totally elated.

I am learning to surf. Having called myself a surfer for the past two decades following a lesson or two at Manly Beach, Austraila, way back when, I felt it was time to put my money where my mouth is and actually learn to do it properly!

At the ripe old age of 38, I am far from the stereotypical image of the bikini clad, nubile, sun bleached blonde haired beauty that graces the cover of the surf lifestyle press, but it appears that I am not alone in my endeavours.

The Surfers Against Sewage’s (SAS) report Economic Impact of Domestic Surfing on the UK 2013 found that 49% of UK surfers are aged over 35, with 5% over 55. “We’re getting more people of all ages coming for lessons," says Dave Muir, owner of the Sennen Surfing Centre. He adds that he has also seen an increase in the number of first time surfers in their 40s and 50s, prompting the label ‘silver surfers’.

Since Captain Cook first documented surfing in 1778 it has undergone an image transformation from a ‘sport of kings’ to the preserve of hippie dropouts. More recently the profile of surfers, at least in the UK, has undergone yet another dramatic shift.

The socio economic grouping of people surfing is now unrecognisable from the beach bums of the 1960s. The waves are no longer populated by rebellion fuelled adolescents but by st

ockbrokers and accountants! According to the SAS report, 79% of UK surfers fall into the professional category, over indexing the wider public by 25%.

There are 500,000 regular surfers in the UK, according to the British Surfing Association, with this figure increasing each year. Economically, this is positive,

with increased sales of surfing paraphernalia, lessons and hotel stays in surfing locations.

Socially however, especially among the locals, the impact is not so positive. The influx of city dwelling surfers causes tension between the locals and the visitors, as surf breaks become crowded and competition for good waves increases.

Surfing is a sport that, once experienced, takes a hold. I know that I am definitely one of the 50% of those who have tried it, that will continue to surf. I think nothing of getting up at 4.30am on a Saturday morning after a long week at work to drive down to Cornwall to get some ‘blue juice’ for the weekend.

I am concerned about how crowded the waves might become, especially now that surfing has recently been chosen as a “Demonstration Event” at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But, as long as surfing etiquette is observed then there should be room for everyone, no matter what their age.

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