Susie Terry is a feisty self-taught 75-year-old surfer with attitude. “Surfer Susie’” has been hanging ten since age ten and has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. We caught up with her at her house in Ventura, California, for a fun Q & A full of laughs, high energy, and lots of girl power.
Q: Susie, it’s so great to meet you. Tell us about your surfing journey. How did you get started?
A: When I was around 10 or 11, I was in San Diego with my aunt and uncle, and they took me to see the 1959 movie Gidget. It was about a teenage girl that wanted to surf with the boys. The movie resonated with me. So, I came home and told my mom and dad, “I want to be a surfer girl like Gidget.” My dad immediately took me to a surf shop for a board and then dropped me off at the beach. I stayed alone in a secluded area, watched older surfers, and tried to copy what they were doing. It was a do-or-die situation. Sometimes, I got hit by the waves; sometimes, I didn’t; sometimes, I got up on the board; and sometimes, I didn’t. That’s just the way it was and how I learned. It’s still that way now, 65 years later.
Q: Obviously, you’ve been independent since you were very young. Did you ever have anyone to surf with, or were you always surfing solo? Has that changed over the years?
A: Initially, I had no friends to surf with because nobody I knew wanted to do it. But I’ve always been a soul surfer anyway, so I was better by myself. I recognized the kids out there because they were kids from my school, but there were no girls. So, I was the only female in the water, which was pretty cool. I was just like Gidget.
These days my husband and I have our little surf crew of friends. When you surf as much as we do, and for so many years, you get to know lots of people. Our crew is cool; everyone is in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Very few are like us, over 50. We will text each other about the waves, the break, and the tide. It’s an easy relationship because we all have the same mindset; we love the water and love to surf. Age doesn’t matter to this group.
Q: What is your actual age, and what age do you feel?
A: Okay, well, I’m 75. Sometimes I feel 75. But when I’m in the water, I feel young. I don’t feel my age at all. It’s like being in a different body or something. I feel like a teenager when I get on my board.
Q: It sounds like you are living a timeless lifestyle. What advice would you have for someone wanting to leave their comfort zone and try something new?
I say go for it. It’s all just a mindset, anyway. You can’t give in to the idea of “I’m old, and I can’t do anything, so I’m just going to give up.” Getting old is what it is. It’s not going to change. You can’t turn back time, so find something you love or even like to do and give it a shot. It might not work out, but it might. You will never know until you try.
Q: Have you had any setbacks over the years with surfing? What did you do to overcome the obstacles?
I broke my arm while running about a year ago. I was so bummed because I had never had anything happen like that in my 75 years. I assumed I would return to the water in 4-6 weeks, but that didn’t happen. It took much longer, and when I got back in, I could only worry that my weakened arm might not hold up. I was missing waves and completely letting worry take over. Finally, after a major pity party, I got out there and talked to myself. I was like, “What the hell is wrong with you? Here’s a wave that looks good. I’m going to get that bitch and make her mine.” And then I took off, got up, and rode it without worrying about my arm. So, it was just my mind defeating me. It wasn’t my body so much as my thought process that was keeping me down.
Q: Mindset seems to be the key to your independence, longevity, and happiness. Would you agree?
A: Yeah, it’s funny. I have the attitude and mindset that I just don’t give a shit about what anybody else thinks. It’s been that way since I was the only girl in the water with all the boys. While my girlfriends were on the beach in their bikinis, I ate sand and surfed. My mindset has never changed, and it’s only getting stronger as I age. I’m going to do what I love to do until I can’t do it anymore. No matter what anyone thinks.
Keep on keeping on, Surfer Susie!
To learn more about Surfer Susie, follow her on instagram @surfersusie66 and on TikTok @therealsurfersusie. Join the Timeless Community to find other like-minded surfers and community adventurers living large.
Disclaimer: This interview has been edited and condensed.