[This piece by Justin Housman originally appeared in SURFER magazine Volume 60, Issue 2.
With aging, surfing is even more precious. Every sparkling drop of water helps the stoke fire burn bright. Today, I mix it up more with swimming, bodysurfing, riding my surf mats and surfing my fishes and gliders. Also, just getting in the water, being weightless allows us to keep our bodies loose and free. And breathing in the air just above the ocean surface, filled with negative ions is healing for the mind, lungs and heart.
The variety of boards being ridden today is refreshing. Short, long, with an array of bottoms and fins—and even finless—configurations. It’s like in the ‘60s and ‘70s when quantum leaps were made with surfboard design and wave riding that had never been seen before. Pushing limits with tiny, downrail edge boards, small single-fin hulls, twin fins, the Fish, Greenough riding his flex spoons and carving new lines, and my husband Steve evolving his Pendoflex high-speed torque tails. I enjoy seeing surfers and shapers today experimenting in the same ways and with new materials.
Sharing the love of surfing and boardmaking helps my marriage. Steve always inspires me and it’s a gift to be married to him. We enjoy talking about board design and each have our own ideas and preferences. We’re open to learn from one another. Good-natured, spirited banter and humor is fun. Occasionally there are head butts, as we’re both dynamic people, but when one of us is not able to get wet, we ride waves for each other.
Shaping and building your own boards gives you a closer connection with your surfing experience. It’s rewarding to have an idea for a board, make it and ride it. If you’re curious about shaping or building your own board—do it! Though, if a person is fortunate to have a very close relationship with a shaper who is sensitive to understanding their ideas and surfing needs, I think it’s possible to achieve a unique personal vision with a custom board.
It’s heartwarming to surf with many more women, young girls and families today. Decades ago, it was rare for me to see another woman surfer out, unless I planned a surf with a “surfette” friend or participated in a competition.
Seeing women pushing their creativity and fitness with big and small wave surfing is thrilling. I’m excited for the professional women surfing today, who have made great strides for equal pay and equal prize money at events.
The lineups are much more busy now than they were in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Back then, we enjoyed exploring remote areas, sometimes even without maps. The excitement and discovery of a wave setup where we could surf alone was so much fun.
I’m always aware and appreciative of the beauty, motion, sparking light and intriguing patterns of water movement and flow. While walking to the ocean, paddling out, ducking under waves, riding waves and swimming, these visions and experiences inspire my art and work on our surfboards. Seeing dolphins and fish swimming inspire ideas for fin templates and foils. Observing pelicans gliding by and soaring above the swells inspire me to surf and think with flow.
The key to keeping the love of surfing going is gratitude. Also, I cross train with swimming, practice yoga and hike to keep fit for surfing. When I was younger, I was passionate about dynamic waves and deep tube rides. When I was competing in the 1970s, I trained by surfing two four-hour sessions each day in all conditions, five days a week, and a half-day on Saturday, only resting on Sunday. Now, as I’m approaching 70, I’m enjoying smaller wave sessions and “princess waves.”
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