Age and double hip surgery won’t cramp this grandma’s surf stoke


With a practised spring Bernie Shelly is on her feet. The wave is going right. She swoops into a bottom turn and glides down the line. Shelly is in her element, having rolled through a fair few sets in her time. The longboarding legend is on the cusp of turning 70.

She has hunted down surf across South Africa and abroad; some of her more memorable escapades include J-Bay and its sister Elands, as well as the big triple-M: Mozambique, Madagascar and the Maldives. But her life hasn’t been an endless chase for surf. Shelly took 25 years out from her board-riding adventures to become a mother to four children. Her sabbatical from the sea ended in the ‘90s, when she picked up longboarding again.

Shelly has since become Grandma “B” to a posse of eight youngsters. And she’s definitely not the only old-timer in the water. Surfing has proven to be a sport with incredible longevity. It’s not uncommon for surfers to rip well into their 80s. Perhaps this speaks to the benefits of regular time spent escaping the busyness of life in the tranquillity of the ocean. The water soothes both mind and body. Along with the time constraints that come with a growing family, Shelly has overcome a double hip surgery to continue surfing. And she doesn’t plan on letting anything else cramp her stoke.