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Surfing for Life
A chat with gerontologist, filmmaker, and surfer Roy Earnest

"I’ve been surfing since 1962. I grew up in New Jersey, and my family used to go to the Jersey Shore every other weekend in the summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day. One day, my sister rented a surfboard; she went out and got tossed around by the waves for about a half-an-hour. When she came in she was totally disgusted with the whole experience, and she never wanted to surf again. And I said, ‘Roberta, can I borrow your surfboard.’ She said, ‘Well, we rented it for the whole day! Go ahead!’ So I paddled out, and I’ve been surfing every since. That was in August of 1962.

"I haven’t found anything that’s more fun than surfing. I’ve found a lot of things that may be just as fun, but nothing that’s more fun for me. And as I’ve gotten older, surfing’s become a way for me to relax and, and get in touch with nature. It’s much more than a sport for me at this point; it’s a meditation. It’s a way to keep my body healthy, and it gives me a reason to stay healthy, because I don’t want to get unhealthy and not be able to surf."


Roy Earnest, co-producer of Surfing for Life, has been a dedicated gerontological social worker for 23 years and an avid surfer for 34 years. One of the co-founders of the Pedro Point Surf Club in Pacifica, he is the club's Surfari Coordinator for club-sponsored surf trips. In 1994, he was developing a series of consciousness-raising workshops on the human potential of later life when he met David L. Brown at the premiere of bound by the Wind and decided to collaborate on the production of Surfing for Life. Roy assembled the Gerontology Advisory Board and supervised the writing and production of the Surfing for Life Discussion Guide.

Roy came by the Exploratorium to talk to us about the life of a surfer.

(Please note: These are very large files and may take several minutes to download.)

"I know you are a great fan of surfing, but can it really improve someone’s life?"
Roy's answer (13M QuickTime video)
(video help)

"Good surfing is so dependent on good weather and the tides. How do you make time to surf?"
Roy's answer (16.9M QuickTime video)
(video help)

"Last summer a surfer near Stinson Beach, CA was bitten by a great white shark. Aren’t you worried about being attacked?"
Roy's answer (12.9M QuickTime video)
(video help)

"Since the release of your film, Surfing for Life, and the film Blue Crush, a lot of people are interested in taking up surfing. Do you have any advice for first time surfers?"
Roy's answer (14.5M QuickTime video)
(video help)

"I’ve watched skiers on a slope, all vying for the ‘sweet spots’, and have witnessed some nasty collisions. As waves get more and more crowded there must be some similar tense moments out there. Is there etiquette involved in wave sharing?"
Roy's answer (25.8M QuickTime video)
(video help)

"Spending so much of your time riding a wave must spur an interest in what is causing the best waves. Can you tell us anything about what makes a surfable wave?"
Roy's answer (27.2M QuickTime video)
(video help)

To learn more about Roy's film, older surfers, and read the film discussion guide, visit


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