Hooked on surfing before he was big enough to get his arm around his first surfboard, GemLife Bribie Island resident Garry Low’s love of the sport is as strong today as ever.
In his mid-60s, Garry has surfed all over Australia, as well as overseas’ surf destinations including Fiji, Samoa, and the Cook Islands, and plans to surf for decades to come.
“Surfing is something you can do your whole life. It’s not like footy where you have to stop in your 30s. It’s a sport people can do at any age,” he said.
Garry’s all-time favourite surfer Barry ‘Magoo’ McGuigan, a legendary longboard surfer, pioneer of modern surfing, and one of the world’s oldest competitive surfers, illustrates the point.
“Magoo competed right up to the end of his life at age 85. I’d stand and watch him and think ‘he’s a master’,” said Garry.
Originally from Sydney, Garry remembers his interest in surfing sparking when he spotted blow-up rubber surf mats in the waters off Manly Beach as a boy. Surf mats were hugely popular in Australia before boogie boards came along and served as an introduction to surfing for thousands of pre-teens.
“I liked the look of it and it just progressed from there,” he said. Garry’s family home was far from the beach, so to hit the surf he caught trains, ferries or buses to Manly, Bronte and Bondi.
“My first surfboard was a 7ft 9inch Wallace board. I couldn’t even get my arm around it, so I put it on my head to carry it,” he laughed.
Garry and his wife Merriann moved to GemLife Bribie Island nearly two years ago from the NSW Central Coast.
Although the swells at Bribie are not big enough for surfing, Garry heads to Maroochydore, Mudjimba or Alexandra Heads when the water calls, and gets some quality surf time when he, Merriann, and their dog head off in their caravan three or four times a year.
“We like to holiday at the beach, and I usually try to make a surfing holiday out of it,” he said.
Garry has two 9ft longboards – a ‘muckaround’ board and a competition board, both meticulously handcrafted and custom-made for him.
“I used to go into competitions for a bit of fun. Most of my mates are semi-pro and we’re all in the over-65s veterans now,” said Garry.
“Surfing is great exercise but it’s also good for your mind. When I surf, I fully relax. It’s exercising but it’s relaxing at the same time,” he said.
“You’re in nature and it’s just you and the waves. You learn to read the waves to get the best rides. You have to be in-tune with the environment. If you talk to Mick Fanning or Joel Parkinson, they say it’s like becoming part of the environment and that’s how it is for me and my friends when we go surfing.”
Surfing is known as a great total body workout that’s good for cardiovascular fitness, upper body strength from paddling, and leg and core strength from balancing and standing up.
“The great thing about surfing is you can surf until any age. I’m over 65 now and it’s no problem at all,” said Garry.
At GemLife Bribie Island, Garry also keeps fit with an hour of swimming each day, a friendly round of social lawn bowls on Sundays, an occasional session of virtual golf and snooker in the games’ room.
“It’s important to stay active because if you don’t use it, you lose it. The facilities here are great,” he said.
“It’s also been very easy to meet new people and the nice thing is you can join in as much as you want or not – the choice is yours.”