Surfer Retirement: At What Age Do Surfers Retire?

Surfing is one of the few sports that requires the use of all muscle groups. To be a great surfer, you must have strength, balance, focus, and, most importantly, an awareness of the ocean's unpredictability. 

Unfortunately, no matter how magnificent you are in surfing, your aging body will slow you down. And, since surfing is a demanding sport, professional surfers will confront the reality of having to call it quits at some point. 

What is the ideal surfer retirement age? Most pro surfers retire between the ages of 35 and 40. But that is not the end of the story; you can still see professional and non-professional surfers in their septuagenarian years enjoying the waves. 

What Are The Common Reasons Why Professional Surfers Retire?

Surfer Retirement
Source: ludoaequitas.org

Apart from age, there are other reasons why some pro surfers decide to end their surfing career. Here are some: 

1. Physical limitations

Surfers, like most people, will develop aches and pains in their joints and muscles as they age. Taking on a large wave in your 40s or 50s would be more difficult than when they were younger. 

A surfer's ideal performance is likely to be reduced when the body loses agility and strength, leading to an increase in problems such as ankle sprains, shoulder dislocations, and even loss of coordination. 

Recovering from an injury is also slower than when they were younger. Pain, especially after a catastrophic injury, can linger for a long time and even reoccur after recuperation.

2. Surgery due to back pain 

Continuous paddling and sudden and twirling movements are just some of the reasons that lead to the surfer’s back pain. Unfortunately for some non-pro and pro-surfers, surgery is the only option to cure the problem. 

The problem with back pain surgery is that it takes a longer time to heal. 

3. Changing priorities

As your priorities shift, your surfing time may be shorter than it was when you were younger. Having new obligations, such as caring for a growing family or starting a new business or job, can change your surfing lifestyle from when you were much younger.

Surfing for at least 4 hours and then hanging out with your friends may become a thing of the past as new responsibilities emerge as you deal with life's goings-on.

Of course, this does not preclude you from continuing to surf. While raising a family or running a business may take your full attention, making time for surfing is as important for self-care.

4. Lack of confidence.

Another major reason why professional surfers retire in their late 30s or early 40s is because they believe they are not improving in their sport. Athletes want to believe that their surfing ability is at its peak, and any decrease in performance causes them to lose confidence in their abilities.

Psychological considerations have a significant impact on any athlete's performance. The more competition losses they encounter, the more negative thoughts they create. Younger athletes may outperform them, causing them to feel frustrated and even depressed.

Athletes are always looking to improve their skills, and feeling like they aren't getting any better can be frustrating. Your motivation to surf lessens as you doubt whether this is still a worthwhile career path to pursue.

5. Small compensation 

Income from professional surfing comes from prize money, endorsements, and social media. An elite surfer like Gabriel Medina earns over $ 2.4 million per year, a big chunk of this comes from product endorsements. 

But not everyone is as lucky. The Vans US Open of Surfing which is one of the biggest surfing competitions in the world only awards around $20,000 to the winner. 

Endorsements can earn top-ranked professional surfers between $250,000 and $400,000 per year. The figures may appear large, but they pay for travel fees and surf equipment. 

Now, surfers who are ranked #50 or below may only earn about $15,000 annually or even lower which is barely enough to make both ends meet. 

So, if there isn’t enough food on the table, pro surfers may swim their way out in search of a more lucrative career even at a young age. 

Is Surfing Still Safe for Older People? 

Yes, regardless of whether you are a professional or a non-professional surfer, you can still surf safely past your 40’s. 

Just look at Kelly Slater, who at the age of 49, won the World Surf League held in Hawaii. 

For older surfers still wanting to hit the waves, here are some safety guidelines to consider:

Get the right surfboard

Trade your high-performance shortboard with a surfboard with more volume, meaning, surfboards that are thicker, wider, and longer. This will allow you to catch the waves and balance yourself much easier. 

Choose the right surf spot

Choosing a surf spot that has a sandy bottom with no sharp elements like rocks and corals. In case you lose your balance, a softer surface will reduce the chance of injuries. 

Stretch those muscles 

Flexibility and balance are two of the prerequisites in surfing. However, as people age, the muscles become tighter, making it challenging to twist and turn. So, what you can do is stretch your muscles by doing some yoga exercises. 

Stretching is a good way to keep you flexible which is very important in activities that involve a wide range of motion such as surfing. It is best to do some stretching exercises before and after surfing. 

Recovery days 

Accept that your muscles are not as supple anymore. If you are used to surfing every day, that might not be a good idea when you are in your 40s. Listen to what your body tells you, if your muscles are too sore, take a couple of days to recover before you hit the waves again. 

Final Thoughts 

Professional surfing, like any other professional sport, has an expiration date around the age of 40. When it comes to pleasure surfing, however, age is not a factor. It all relies on your physical health, and it is critical to listen to your body to understand your limitations. 

Older individuals can still enjoy surfing; simply adjust to how your body feels when you go out to surf. Using a longboard and attempting not to outcompete the younger ones when out on the waves are two options, as is battling an above wave.

James Davis

Written by James Davis

I'm a true California local, and I've spent my life riding the waves along our stunning coastline. Surfing has always been my greatest love, and in my writing, I try to capture its genuine essence. My words aim to transport you into the heart of the surf culture, where the ocean and surfers come together in perfect harmony.

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