Gidget Goes Grandma

Seven days later I had the newly acquired abilities to catch my own waves without being pushed into them, to get up most of the time and to turn the foam board, all the time proudly displaying my scabbed knees, a split lip from a rebounding board, and some pretty straw like sea water, sun damaged hair. And I’d never been happier. A surfer girl was born- a few decades late, but it’s never too late to live a dream!

Retire and surf in Costa RicaThat dream is obviously shared by many as the surf industry seems recession proof and the global market is expected to reach $13.2 billion dollars by 2017. Baby boomers are flocking to join the craze and make up 15% of surfers. And women? We now represent a staggering 30% of all surfers albeit that includes all ages of women. Surf camps and equipment just for women are springing up everywhere and although we are still sadly not highly recognized through surf competitions, the tide continues to turn with the help of inspirational women such as pioneer Marge Calhoun and contemporary Bethany Hamilton of “Soul Surfer” fame. “Surfer” magazine even has a publication just for women called “Salted”. Sure, the pages host some amazing bodies surfing in bikinis but the focus is on the athleticism and spirit of the woman who challenges the wave.

Happily, even for us “kooks”* the waters are so very different. I am warmly greeted at the beach and cheered on in the lineup anywhere I surf. Also, I am rarely alone in my gender in the water, although I am often the only female who is 57 years old out there. But, in my travels to other breaks hosting surf schools, there are more and more “Grannies” gearing up and getting wet.

Besides fulfilling my childhood Gidget dreams surfing has amazing benefits.

  • It strengthens the core and the legs from the “pop-up”* and the balanced stance, assuming one can “pop-up”. Many days I struggle and in bad form go to my knees first. But it encourages me to do more training out of the water and scabbed knees are a good reminder. Yoga is a huge plus and my hubby frequently praises my balance on the board. Once I get up.
  • It strengthens the upper body and provides cardiovascular fitness from paddling.
  • It opens one up to the ecological balance of mankind and the ocean. Floating out there and seeing the sea life and conversely, the lack thereof, makes me so much more conscious of my own carbon footprint.
  • Ditto with the garbage on the beach- a great way to make friends on beach clean-up days.
  • It relieves stress. The very Zen nature of woman in the waves is a reconnection to something more powerful and spiritual than our small problems. It literally washes away the worries and tension of everyday life.
  • I sleep really well after a surf day. The exercise, the sun, the water all ease the not so easy to live with consequences of menopause like hot flashes and insomnia. Also hard to have a hot flash in the water- big benefit!

My final bonus from becoming a Grandma Gidget? I met my husband on a surfing singles site. I was just looking for more “Silver Surfers”, men or women, to go on trips with as I still lived in Northern Nevada. He wrote to me, wondering how surfing was working out for me in the High Sierras. One year later after 4 cross country trips and ten days together in Costa Rica, I moved to join him in South Florida. So I am finally surfing alongside my Big Kahuna. Moondoggie be damned! The Kahuna is a way better surfer than that kid. As of this writing we have filed our paperwork to live as residents in surf blessed Costa Rica…but that’s another story.

Definitions courtesy of

  • “kook”– 1) A person who can’t surf and gets in everyone’s way. 2) Someone who pretends to be something they’re not. 3) Almost always thinks they surf better than they really can. I am guilty of #1 though I can’t believe how nice people are to me even then. My husband says I am neither guilty of #2 nor 3 and I should give myself more credit. I guess he’s right; he is THE Big Kahuna after all.
  • “pop-up”– The process of a surfer getting to one’s feet on a surfboard, just after catching the wave. Note that it says, “just after catching the wave” That’s the tough part, but practice makes perfect. Timing is everything says the Big Kahuna.

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  1. Michaelene Callahan

    March 1, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Love it!!!

  2. Brittany Cook

    March 1, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    This was super awesome, Karen! I wish I was as brave as you and could do something like this!

  3. This makes me smile from ear to ear. Go Grandma Gidget!!!

  4. Awesome article!

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