Meet Lihi Geva Lisser. Clinical social worker, psychotherapist, mother of four and now a surfer. At 45, Lihi from Israel started surfing just 7 months ago proving that you’re never too old to follow your passions.
We spoke to Lihi about balancing surfing with family commitments, the difficulties she’s encountered and how surfing has made such a positive impact on her life.
Where do you surf?
“I surf mostly at Tel Aviv and Herzeliya beaches in central Israel. I started travelling on surf trips (mostly to Portugal and Costa Rica) and surf wherever I can.”
How did you get into surfing?
“I started after taking my 9 year old son to a surfing camp. I sat on the beach and watched him – he seemed so calm and happy at the same time. I found myself wondering how it feels to catch a wave. I wasn’t sure it was even possible learn to surf at my age, but I was determined to try!
“The next week, at the same beach, I held a soft board for my first surfing lesson and my new “romance” began.
“I immediately felt I found treasure and had no time to lose so decided to take as many lessons as possible. Luckily I found an amazing surfing coach that was willing to take the challenge. He took me as his ‘mom project’ and I’m so grateful for his devotion and patience. Taking those lessons was and still is my best investment in surfing.”
What do you love about surfing that got you so hooked?
“There are so many things I found amazing about it. I love the feeling of being in the water, paying attention to the wind, the weather, what the waves are doing. It’s like opening a door to a new world – so different from my normal, everyday work/home environment. I try to slow down, take it all in and just let myself go.
“When I catch a wave I experience one of the single moments where I can stop thinking for a while. As I ride a wave I’m very focused. I invest all of my energy in that moment and feel for a tiny bit I can leave behind all of my familiar identities – being a wife, a mother, a professional etc.
“Surfing ‘cleans’ my mind. Sometimes when I get out of the water I feel that I have a new and fresh perspective about things. It’s like a fresh flow of thought can enter my mind and I feel more powerful and resourceful. But most importantly, surfing for me is all about having fun, falling and getting back on my feet again – playing like a kid in a huge playground.”
How has surfing impacted on your life?
“Surfing has made me a much happier person! I spend more time doing what I love which has given me this new feeling of joy and freedom. Being in the water and watching the big blue reminds me of how dynamic and temporary life is.
Gradually, I began to rethink how and with whom I want to spend my time. I find myself completely changing my working schedule, focusing more on surfing and being around people I love. Learning how to surf also made me face my fears and confront my physical and mental weaknesses. I know myself better than I did before. I also take the approach of surfing with me when facing difficulties in everyday life.”
What difficulties have you encounter while surfing?
“The most frustrating moments I’ve had involve dealing with injury. In the beginning, my body felt in shock after every session. I had pain in my neck and shoulders and I had to stop surfing for several weeks to deal with local inflammations. I felt like my body was really struggling and that made me feel a little old I questioned myself. I realized that my body needs more time to adjust and to build strength so I must accept its pace.
“I also found that paddling sessions (whenever there weren’t any waves) really helped with the strengthening process.”
What about your family, what do they think of your passion?
“To be honest, incorporating my new passion into my family routine hasn’t been easy, and finding our new balance is an ongoing task. At first, everybody thought I had gone crazy, especially my older kids who didn’t like the idea of surfing taking so much of my mental and physical energy. Sometimes I must admit they were right.
“Gradually they understood that it’s not a crazy new hobby of mine, but a way of life. They sometimes still complain that I drop everything when there’s good surfing conditions or that I’m not there every morning to get them ready for school. Luckily my husband backs me up a lot with the kids, although I realize it means extra work for him!”
How did you convince your husband and kids to participate in your love of surfing?
“I take my kids with me to the beach whenever I can, trying to make it a more familiar and friendly environment for them. I had more success with my two youngest kids and they began surfing every weekend as well. This became their ‘quality’ time with mom and time off for dad who’s glad to ride his Harley instead.”
Any tips on how we can include our families, or at least get them to accept our obsessions?
“In one word: be patient. Adjusting to any change takes time. Another important tip I learned the hard way: don’t over talk about your surfing experience with family members since they don’t necessarily find it as interesting as you do!
“And don’t forget to thank your partner for supporting you. When you have kids and you’re out surfing means that somebody else does all the hard work while you are out there having fun.”
How do you prepare yourself physically and mentally for your next surfing opportunity?
“I go to the beach even when there are no waves, paddling and practicing my pop-up. I do sessions on my stand-up paddle board and I started windsurfing lessons. I also find myself watching lots of surfing films and videos which inspire me and keep my stoke burning.
Any tips or advice for people who started surfing later in life?
“Be patient. Surfing isn’t easy but it’s worth it although getting injured sometime is inevitable (although it’s the most frustrating experience ever).
“Don’t be shy and take as many surfing lessons as you can. It can make surfing much more do-able and enjoyable. And most of all, don’t focus too much on personal goals and instead try to enjoy the whole process. It’s all about being out there, doing your best and having an open mind.”