Active ageing: Surf's still up for Colin at 71
HE STARTED on a surf plane when he was eight, graduated to a belly board, then got his first Malibu in 1960 at age 14.
But following his return to surfing in 2007, after a 40-year break, Colin Harper said "it's not like riding a bike".
He was born and bred in Manly, NSW, but then headed west to Cowra where he ran a sports store, and had a small farm. Surfing was a holiday activity only and, "I got more and more out of practice".
"I was 61 when I got back into it. If my sons hadn't bought me a brand new Mal I would have given up."
Eventually "it all came back", and his home break these days is Flat Rock, just south of Lennox Head, where Colin loves that "you can paddle out back and you know someone".
He's a member of the Ballina Malibu Club and enters their monthly competitions, although he says he's "one of the worst doing it". But he does do it, and loves the fun and social side. "It's a great bunch of people in the Malibu club."
The greatest enjoyment he gets from his surfing is being able to surf with his sons and grandsons. "I love having the three generations out in the water together".
Colin said coming from Sydney he saw surfing more as a summer sport, but he's got a wetsuit and "I'll go out in winter if it's good, but it's been flat and cold. I'm a little bit of a wousse".
He said when he started back surfing it was tough. "I'd got very unfit, I'd need 20 minutes to get my breath back when I got out."
Now he exercises every day so he can surf. "I do push-ups, sit-ups, light weights for 20 minutes every morning.
"I put myself through torture so I can do what I do. If I stop exercising it'll only be a year or two and won't be able to do it.
"God blessed me with a healthy body, and he blesses us with good waves. It's a good combination. We have to use the gifts God gave us."
The Ballina Malibu Club meets on the first Sunday of each month (except January) at 7am in the Flat Rock carpark.
For more details, visit: http://ballinamalibuclub.org/blog/