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How late is too late to start surfing?

How long does it take to learn how to surf?

Beginners’ guide to surfing

Reading Time: 5 -Minutes

The ideal time to start learning to do most things is when you’re young. Surfing is no different, particularly given how much easier it is to paddle into a wave and stand up on a floating piece of fibreglass when you weigh less than 30 kilograms. Unfortunately, not everyone gets that chance – but does that mean you can’t learn as an adult? Absolutely not.

Plenty of people start surfing in their 20s, 30s, 40s – some people even first jump on a board post-retirement. It might make it a little harder, but it’s completely doable – it just takes a little bit of effort and perseverance.


Surfing wasn’t a part of my life at all when I was a kid. I grew up in a big city more than an hour away from the nearest waves, and very few people I knew surfed. The idea was a bit of a novelty – to me and my most of my friends, surfers were those guys with long blonde-hair on Point Break.

At 21 I first jumped on a surfboard, and for the next couple of years it’s safe to say I didn’t follow my own advice from above and persevere – I actually went out in the water maybe ten times over the next two years. Unsurprisingly I didn’t advance much. Then at 23 I decided to take it a little more seriously, started getting in the water regularly, and it’s now a major part of my life and something I do four or five times a week. 

I know plenty of people with similar stories, and not all of them start in their early 20s. In fact, my age was pretty irrelevant – much more important was how often I committed to practicing. At age 21 I was probably reasonably fit and flexible, but I didn’t put in anywhere near the time commitment needed to learn and as a result I got nowhere. A 50-year-old actually putting aside the time to consistently practice is far more likely to reach a competent level than a much younger person not making a lot of effort. 

This spiel isn’t just to tell you my story – it’s to prove to you that age is no barrier! If you can walk – and ideally have at least a base level of fitness – then you can learn to surf.

There are, of course, some differences. It’s perfectly possible to learn to surf well into your 50s or 60s, but as mentioned you’ll find it a whole lot easier if you take care of yourself and have a little bit of a fitness base. 

You’re also going to probably want a little bit more volume if you’re a little older, particularly if your age has seen the development of a little extra size around the midriff region – as often tends to happen. The more volume the better is a mantra which probably works for any age group anyway – whether you’re 20 or 60, you’re not going to get far if you head out for your first ever session on a shortboard – but it’s especially important for our more senior learners to get a high volume board. This will make paddling easier, it will make it easier to get into waves, it will make it easier to stand up, and most importantly it will make it easier to stay up. 

The exact size will depend on a couple of factors, most notably your own size, but most people will want something in excess of 8 or 9 foot in order to make the process as painless as possible – assuming you keep it away from your head.

And then there’s the time commitment. Again, whether you’re 20 or 60, learning to surf requires a fair bit of time, but if you’re 60 you’ll probably find it particularly difficult to get anywhere if you’re only getting in the water once every couple of months. 

A lot of beginners want to know how much time they need to dedicate if they want to learn. We’ll give you an answer that nobody wants to hear – it depends. It depends on what you classify as learning, what level you want to get to, whether you’re learning the right way or the wrong way, what kind of board you’ve got – and the list goes on. 

Basically though, the more the better. If you’re only at the beach for a day every three months, to be perfectly honest you’ll likely struggle to get far. Some people obviously don’t have the luxury of living at the beach, but if that’s you then just make sure you make the most of the time you do spend on the coast. If you can get out in the water once every couple of weeks or once a month, great. The more you practice the more you’ll advance, particularly as you get older.

So what’s the moral of this story? It’s never too late to learn. There might be some added difficulties as you get older, but it’s very possible to overcome them if you’re willing to put in the work. As we said earlier, a young person investing very little time is much less likely to get anywhere on a surfboard than an older person actually giving it a genuine try – make the effort and you’ll get there.

In the next article we’ll start delving a little bit deeper into the kind of equipment you’ll need before you get started, and provide an answer to a question which everyone wants to know about – the costs!