“Stoke” The curse of an ageing surf fanatic?


Do you want to surf for the rest of your life? Do you imagine being a grandparent catching waves with your grandchildren? Do you, like me, want them to say on the day of your funeral when you’re way past 100 years old, “Shit Grand-dude, you should have stayed alive for one more week. Pete’s Reef was firing this morning!”

This may be a bit far fetched not to mention a bit morbid.  But the point is that surfing isn’t just a sport. It isn’t like squash, badminton or your regular Saturday soccer match at “Paradise Park”. Surfing is the “cherry” on the top of life itself, an incarnation-enhancer beyond the imagination of our fellow life travellers.  You can’t really just try it, and go back to it every now and then. It can’t be planned, pencilled into your busy diary, or practiced against the wall at home. With the ocean, you’re either tasting “The cherry” or you’re not.

The reason for writing this is, I have been suffering with my knees for sometime, one kind of grinds and the other locks occasionally, the result of playing Swansea League soccer for too long, anyway I eventually went to my local surgery the other day, to get them looked at. My doctor is pretty cool, she’s a sportswoman herself, and for a while, she had some good advice.  “Low impact training”, she said. “Try those balance boards, run only on sand and for short periods, warm up before you do any exercise, follow my knee exercise regime, and stay out of the surf for a while.”

“Err… How long?” I asked.

“Well, exercise properly and you’ll reach a stage where you can do it every now and then.”

Every now and bloody then?” I thought.  “What do you mean every now and then?”

“You might be able to do it fairly regularly again in the future, but not too much.  It’s not like you need to get surf fit for competitions, is it?” She said.

Fairly regularly… not like you need to get fit for competitions!” Was she seriously telling me that my youthful days of energetic surfing are over and now it’s time to mellow a bit and think of it as more of a part time “hobby” thing?

Well yes she was!

After hearing this, my knee had miraculously recovered (I actually went out for a run that night and convinced myself that there was no ache the next day) but I wondered if my hearing had just failed me.

It’s true, I’ve never competed and I have no plans to do so, so there’s no potential sponsors stressing on my fitness.

But this doctor didn’t understand. She didn’t realise that although ‘competition’ doesn’t exactly describe the experience, there’s no doubt that you need a good level of fitness to surf good waves.  You need serious stamina and good agility to take on the long paddles, heavy wipe outs, sprint paddles to avoid that big lump on the horizon and the pounding given by an ‘opponent’ who weighs in at multiple cubic tons.  Surfing isn’t about competing with the sea; it’s about joining up with it, tuning yourself into its frequency. But in that search for harmony, there can be massive hurdles of chaos to negotiate.

I had two choices – I could say nothing sit out the consultation, then go find another doctor, one who understands; or I could launch a useless campaign of re-education to try to convince her that surfing is more than that. I either surf full on, or I don’t surf!

No disrespect to her but it’s time to get a second opinion. O.K., I’ll do the stretching, warming up, light cross training etc. But I won’t do it with the goal of surfing every now and then, or because I need to for competitions, but because I plan to surf till I’m way past 100 years old!

Stay stoked!



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