Ripping With Age: Jay Reale.
As you’ve gotten older, has your mindset changed at all in terms of your own expectations of your surfing performance?
Absolutely! I no longer have a desire to surf waves that might injure or kill me. I no longer hit huge air sections that I might have hit 25 years ago. I love getting barreled, doing ARSs, rolls, backflips, DK, etc., but my comfort zone, depending on the spot, now maxes out at around 8′ faces. Bigger than that, and I’m not so comfortable out there. Now, my goal is finding a peak with no one on it, or minimal crowds and getting as many waves as I can during my session.
What about in terms of your relationship with the ocean? Is it still about finding the heaviest ripable waves or have you found that you enjoy the surf in different ways as you’ve aged?
See my previous response. I ride a shortboard (5’10”) a lot now, and bust out the longboard when it’s smaller.
My bodyboarding is restricted to days when it’s hollow and wedgy, or at our local spot T-Street during summer when the blackball is happening (they kick the surfers out between 10am-6pm), or when we travel.
We have a lot of great surfing waves in this area, including Trestles, which has about 5 or 6 spots crammed into about 2kms, but it’s mostly softer waves, so hence the shortboard.
For me, I surf pretty much every day, and that’s for about 90 minutes (longer if it’s epic), so I want to have fun, and for me, that means riding the vehicle that will provide the most “bang for my buck” out there. For softer waves, that means a surfboard. For the rare days we get decent barrels, the boogie comes out.
Do you have any specific indicators that you think might tip you off in the future that you might not be physically or mentally able to take on waves heavy or challenging waves anymore?
Yeah, my lung capacity has declined in recent years. I still run 10kms four times/week and bike 90 minutes twice a week, and do some pushups/pullups every day to stay fit, but I’m 57, and the lungs are a bit slower to recover on hard efforts, so that could factor in to my hesitancy to challenge bigger surf.
Also, landing big airs hurts a lot more. My neck is a bit stiff from 42 years of bodyboarding, so the whiplash effect of landing in the flats is not something that I’m willing to endure if I can help it. It’s tough because the mind and the ego see the section and know what to do and how to do it, but the body knows better!
My goal is to continue riding waves at as high a level as possible until I’m very old. I’m not on Mike Stewart’s level, but I’m happy with where I am. I see older guys out there at some of the spots I frequent, and they are honestly my inspiration to keep doing this for many years to come.
What do you think is the single most important thing an individual can do as they get older to maintain a level of performance?
Keep moving. That’s the most important thing! For me, when I hit my mid-30s, bodyboarding was no longer enough to stay fit. The metabolism slows, joints stiffen, etc. as you age, so to fend off the inevitable decline, adopting some form of daily exercise other than just surfing is critical to maintaining your fitness and flexibility. When you’re surfing/bodyboarding, most of your time is spent sitting there waiting for waves. It’s not enough!
In 2005, I got into long-distance endurance sports (triathlons and ultramarathons) and kind of went nuts doing 11 full Ironmans, and about 100 other triathlons and some very long running races, but I’m not saying you have to do that. Just do SOMETHING. Running, walking, hiking, cycling, swimming laps, and supplement that with some sort of resistance training which could be pullups and pushups or hitting the gym with some weights because older folks lose lean muscle mass pretty easily if they don’t work at it a bit. Make a daily workout a HABIT! 30 minutes a day minimum. Do it EARLY too so you don’t get derailed from your workout. I start every day at 4:30am and workout from 5-6:30am so I can get it done before my family wakes up, and still have time to surf before work.
Have you had any role models yourself that you have draw inspiration from or received wisdom from that has impacted on the way in which you’ve structured your life as you’ve aged?
I suppose my life in general was greatly influenced by my parents who raised us in a great neighborhood and encouraged us to work hard and play hard. From a fitness perspective, having a wife that’s 9 1/2 years younger than me and two kids under 18 makes me want to stay fit and be there for them. I think seeing that most men my age have sort of “given up” and let themselves go scares me into staying fit.