Ripping With Age: Joshua Kirkman.
As you’ve gotten older, has your mindset changed at all in terms of your own expectations of your surfing performance?
When I first returned to competitive bodyboarding in 2017, I really just worked with what I thought I had from bodyboarding a decade earlier. There really was no expectation that I could do better than where I was a decade earlier, if anything, I was hoping I could be where I was.
For the past few years on tour, I was simply trying to sustain that original level, but in Portugal late 2019 I had the opportunity (through life circumstances changing) to really spend some time on my riding with exceptional riders like Lewy, George and Wingass as well as some rippers in Portugal like Miguel Coehlo and Steph Kokorelis to inspire me. From that 6 week period a lot changed for me in what I thought was possible in my late 30’s.
My mindset certainly changed regarding what was possible – I realised that my expectations could be higher if I had the time, space and inspiration to facilitate the evolution of my riding.
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?
I never had an interest in finding heavy waves, now and in my previous early days of bodyboarding. I always wanted to have fun in the pocket and get up in the air on decent waves.
I’m not sure if it is about age, but the recent fatal shark attack at my local beach in Tuncurry really made me consider why I enter the water at all and my conclusion is the following: as waveriders we are all artists who perform on a canvas that is the ocean. There are risks to performing on such a canvas, but at the end of the day, all art has risk inbuilt.
Simply put: for the first time in my life, I just want to do beautiful things in the water, and for those who have followed my career, I haven’t always been so concerned with style in relation to winning. That seems to have changed since the shark attack for me.
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?
I have been struggling with lower back pain and other ailments in my hips. It hasn’t come from bodyboarding, but other areas of my recent working life. But either way, this pain has been a wake-up call that I need to take my physical well being seriously, particularly if I plan on doing some tour events in 2022.
I’ve never had a problem with the mental preparedness for riding waves of consequence, but I’m sure that might change if/when I have kids and greater responsibilities in life. Maybe a question to pose to the riders who have kids, because right now, it’s all on me.
What do you think is the single most important thing an individual can do as they get older to maintain a level of performance?
First and foremost, I think you need to make sure that you’re having fun. Without that thrill of riding waves you won’t maintain a high level. After that, just follow Amaury Lavernhe’s social media and try to keep up with whatever he is doing physically… bon chance!
Have you had any role models yourself that you have drawn inspiration from or received wisdom from that has impacted on the way in which you’ve structured your life as you’ve aged?
I have had the good fortune to spend quite a lot of time with Mike Stewart since returning to the sport and he really is the benchmark of wisdom when it comes to wave-riding. I stayed with him for a few weeks in Nazare in 2018 and saw his strict daily regime firsthand: stretching every morning, drinking plenty of water, getting in the ocean and having fun, training like a maniac. He really has figured out how to stay young and healthy despite the number on his passport.
All I know from that experience is that ultimately, any success or failure in bodyboarding is correlated to the effort I put in. I can always do more, and hopefully it is enough to continue to have fun and get some results when world tour competition resumes.