Boogie boarding retirees take to the waves for fun, fitness and better health

Boogie boarding retirees take to the waves for fun, fitness and better health

Boogie boarding retirees take to the waves for fun, fitness and better health

Updated 3 February 2018, 16:20 AEDT

Alison Parker, 73, didn't know what it was when her son gave her a boogie board for Christmas one year.

If you are trying to catch a wave at the often-chilly McGennan's beach in Warrnambool, south-west Victoria, beware of the Silver Surfers.

Instead of battling territorial surfers at peak fitness, you'll be dodging a mob of 18 or so grinning retirees.

And they'll holler as you skim past. It's a tradition.

The Silver Surfers are a group of retired friends, who for a decade have chosen to take their daily exercise in the frigid Southern Ocean, atop a boogie board.

Alison Parker is 73 and along with her friend Michael Page is one of the regulars.

"My daughter-in-law calls us the Silver Surfers," Mrs Parker said.

They are also known as the Granny Grommets, a term coined by the grand-daughter of another group member.


Mrs Parker never learned to surf as a girl, but wishes she had. She only discovered boogie-boarding in her 60s thanks to a curious gift from her son one Christmas.

"Eleven years ago, my son gave me a bodyboard and I didn't know what it was. So I left it sitting there for a while," she said.

Eventually, Mrs Parker picked up the unfamiliar object and ventured into the ocean with her friend. Together they met a group of retirees who would ride the waves most mornings in summer.

"We've been doing it ever since, it's addictive," she said.

Retired doctor prescribes a regular boogie

Retired GP Michael Page only discovered the joys of boogie boarding three years ago, but he is now one of the most dedicated members of the group.

"I had a boogie board but never used it. I've been to the beach more times in the past three years than I have in 45 years in Warrnambool," he said.

"When I first came down here, lo and behold, the majority of the group were my former patients."

While he's mostly in it for the fun, Dr Page can also see the medical benefits for body and soul.

"It's great exercise, walking out against the waves, but I'm just happy in waist-deep water and getting long waves, looking along the wave and seeing everyone smiling," he said.


Dr Page's friend and loyal boogie-boarder, Mrs Parker, has her own theory about the magical medical benefits of daily ocean surfing.

"Sometimes as you're getting in the water, you can see a whole group of people all smiling," she said.

Good for the soul

"We solve all the problems of the world in there sometimes. It keeps us mobile and it keeps us happy.

"I'm sure there's something in the water for our bodies and for our souls."

The group is large and its members operate using a texting system to rouse everyone out of bed when the surf is good.

"Sometimes the text will say 'Doctor's Appointment at the beach at 9 o'clock','' Mrs Parker said.

"I'd say for 31 days of January we would have been here 26 days," said Dr Page.

Their season runs from October to May, but the summer months are the busiest, when the group can swell to about 18 members on the weekends.

It is not too late to learn

The oldest of the group is Max Harrop, who is still boogie-boarding at 87.

Mr Harrop spent his whole life unable to swim, but learned after retirement and subsequently took up boogie-boarding.

He has since moved to Newcastle where he continues to ride the waves, though now in warmer waters.

For others who may be thinking about learning, there's a very welcoming atmosphere at this corner of the Southern Ocean.

Unlike many stand-up surfers, this group doesn't show any of the usual sense of ownership over a wave. In fact they prefer a 'party wave', where as many boogie boarders as possible jump on the same wave and surf in unison.