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SURFING, AGING HEROES STYLE

"There are a million ways to surf, and as long as you're smiling, you're doing it right." ~

Unknown Author


I grew up on James Island, near Charleston, South Carolina. Folly is an adjacent island with a great beach for surfing. As a little kid, I loved body surfing at Folly but I never learned to use a surfboard. The Folly Beach surfers were my hippie heroes. At 14, about the time when my friends were buying boards and learning to surf, my family moved away from the coast to the midlands of North Carolina. Years later, when I returned to James Island my surfing ship had sailed. I felt too old and too intimidated to go to Folly and compete for waves with younger people who knew what they were doing.

surfer, surfing

In popular culture, surfers are often depicted as slackers and stoners but the surfing ethos is much broader than getting high and lacking ambition in life. Identifying as a surfer suggests a commitment to preserving nature, living freely, being humble, looking out for others, and staying true to one’s self. The prototypical surfer rejects materialism and embraces living in the moment. Surfers have much in common with Aging Heroes!


For ancient Hawaiians, surfing was a component of their spirituality. Hawaiian holy men said prayers and performed religious rituals for trees that were to be used to make surfboards. Before the 1830s, Hawaiian men, women, and children all enjoyed surfing. Subsequently, Christian missionaries taught Hawaiian women that it was inappropriate for them to surf. Hawaiian women rejoined the ranks of surfers in the late 1800s. Around the turn of the century, in response to British colonials who tried to usurp surfing as a tourist draw and segregate native Hawaiians from surfing resorts, natives George Freeth and Duke Kahanamoku organized their own surfing clubs in Hawaii. Both Freeth and Kahanamoku traveled the world demonstrating the sport of surfing. Consequently, surfing communities popped up all over the globe.

rusty harrison, Randolph Harrison, Bocas Del Toro

Fast forward to 2021. Erica and I were planning our second trip to Bocas Del Toro, Panama for December. Bocas is our favorite place on earth. It is a collection of 9 islands near the northern Caribbean coast of Panama. We plan on relocating there in 2025 when we retire. Bocas Del Toro is below the hurricane zone, so it has all of the benefits of island life with fewer risks. The outer perimeter of the islands are mostly white, sandy beaches surrounded by azure seas. The inner part of the islands are mostly undeveloped, tropical rainforests inhabited by sloths, monkeys, toucans, parrots, anteaters, bats, red frogs, and an insane variety of rare birds. The red frogs are famous for being the most poisonous in the world. They were used by natives to make poison blow darts. The frogs are only dangerous if you ingest the poison excreted by their skin (or, I suppose, if you are on the receiving end of one of those blow darts).


Several indigenous tribes are also located in undeveloped areas of the islands. Tribal folks still use primitive, dugout canoes for transportation, fishing, and business. On Tuesday mornings, an elderly indigenous man and his grandson paddle a dugout canoe piled high with fruits, vegetables, and fish across Saigon Bay to sell their wares door to door. Most waterfront homes in Bocas are built over the water.


The main island, Colon, has a lively little town that attracts adventure tourists from all over the world. Lots of young people visit the islands to surf, backpack, sail, snorkel, party, bird watch, and scuba dive. The beaches of Bocas are a world-class surfing destination.


I will be turning 60 in September, 2022. Running a marathon and learning to surf were on my bucket list to do before my birthday. I hit the gym in June 2021 and slammed my body through four workouts per week all summer long. My workouts consisted of about 30 minutes of weight lifting, 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, and 20 minutes of yoga. For my strength training, I did nothing but drop sets. Drop sets are a particularly intense weight lifting strategy that builds muscle quickly. For each exercise, you start with enough weight to allow you to do around 12 reps on the first set. Then, without rest, you drop the weight a few pounds and do as many reps as you can at the lower weight. I would continue this process until I had dropped the weight 5 times per exercise. On the elliptical, I set it up for interval training. In interval training, you work at your regular pace, then four times during the workout, you push yourself to your maximum pace for 1-minute intervals. It is said that 20 minutes of interval training can produce the same results as a full hour of training at a steady pace. In September 2021, I decreased my gym workouts to once a week so that I could train for the marathon.


I am a dreamer. Erica is a doer. She is the fairy godmother that turns my pipe dreams into realities. Erica signed us up for the Charleston Marathon, which was to take place in January 2022. She also scheduled us for surfing lessons in Bocas for our upcoming December trip. Erica has been a distance runner for years and agreed to train with me. I know my way around a gym, but training for a marathon was a whole other animal. I had to learn about hill work, hydration, nutrition, stretching, recovery periods, speed work, the long run, and base mileage. We trained hard right up to our Bocas trip. Our long training runs were up to 18 miles!

La Buga, Randolph Harrison

The week before our Bocas trip, I got sick with a respiratory infection. Fortunately, I was on the mend when we departed on Saturday. We flew into Panama City, and stayed overnight, then made the hop to Bocas Del Toro the next morning. We met our friend and Bocas landlord, Filiberto, at the airport and he transported us to our favorite over-the-water, Airbnb, cottage on Saigon Bay. Erica and I spent the day bouncing around Colon, enjoying the, now familiar, sights and sounds. We had an excellent meal at the