Waveriding for the Young at Heart

by Oct 20, 2022People, South Brunswick, Sports

The women of Girls Gone Boogie Boarding in Sunset Beach bond over their love of the ocean waves.

Just like anyone looking to ride the waves, Pam Parisian and Rae Matthews spend time every day analyzing surf and tide charts to get a feel for the ocean’s mood before gathering their gear and the rest of their girls and heading for Sunset Beach.

The Girls Gone Boogie Boarding Club (GGBB), as they call themselves, is a group of young-at-heart women living in Ocean Ridge ranging in ages from 50 to 70-plus. They get together several times a week when the conditions are right for some boogie boarding.  They meet at the Third Street access from April through November (and even December for a couple of the diehard boogies).

It all started in 2019 when Parisians’s granddaughter, Elena Cook, who was seven at the time, was visiting and urged her grandmother to come out and boogieboard with her. Elena has been boarding since she was four.

“For years, she would say come out with me Grandma, and I was like nah,” Parisian says. “But this time, I went out and I loved it. After she went home, I kept boarding.”  Parisian knew Matthews had a mutual passion for boogie boarding, so they would go out together. And then one day, the two decided to see if anyone else in their community was interested. They found their tribe. The group grew from two members to more than 20. On average, depending on schedules, there will be anywhere from four to 12 boogie boarding at a time.

Boogie Boarders NC Sunset Beach

Boogie boarding, also called body boarding, compared to surfing is much more accessible to people of all ages and levels of athleticism.

Unlike surfing where the rider stands on the board, boogie boarding is done lying on the board.

Boogie boards also offer more stability than a surfboard. But don’t discount boogie boarding for a lesser sport. It offers thrilling speeds, opportunities for riding tricky waves, and it’s a great way to stay active. For Amy Brozena, it keeps her out of the gym.  “This is the best workout you can get without going to the gym,” she says. “I liken it to sleigh riding as a kid. You get that big rush going down, and then you have to drag it back up the hill. That’s like fighting the waves to get back out.”

Janet Getz dittos Brozena’s sentiment about staying active. “I love the ocean, but I don’t like to sit still. In fact, I’m ready to go out now!”  Boogie boarding also requires some important gear to make it safe and a more rewarding experience.  Obviously, there is the board. The group doesn’t favor one board over another. Sue Guarino rides her inexpensive but optimal Walmart board, and Diane Miles is still using her board from 1986. What does matter is the height. According to Matthews, “Typically what I’ve read and gone with is that you should use your belly button as the height (for the board).”

Sunset Beach NC Boogie Boarders

GGBB members never leave home without some other essential gear like fins, goggles, shark-repellent bracelets, wet suits for cold weather and stinger suits to protect against jellyfish and man-o-war, something member Pamela Mayer knows all about.

“I got stung by a man-o-war out there,” she says. “It had to have had 15’ tentacles. My entire body was covered in hives for two weeks. Don’t go without a stinger suit.”  The ladies have a couple of other rules too. One, no one ever boards alone.  “We have great respect for Mother Atlantic,” Matthews says. “Even as shallow as it is at Sunset Beach, things can happen.”
The second rule is don’t bother going out if the wave intervals are less than seven seconds.  “If they’re less than that, you don’t have a chance to catch them, and you
end up just getting pushed around,” Parisian says.

For the women of GGBB, their group is about much more than just riding waves.  Jeanine Blumenfeld, who grew up body surfing at the Jersey Shore, has been a lifelong boogie boarder, riding with her children, nieces and nephews.

“When these ladies invited me to be part of GGBB, it just brought me back to my childhood. There’s such great energy in this group.”
Nancy Godbey grew up boogie boarding in California, and says, “These gals are the greatest.”

Corrine Eisenstein, a member who had shoulder surgery, hasn’t been able to boogie board, but she still enjoys hanging out with the group and is “hoping she can get back to it soon.”
For Wendy Carney, joining GGBB helped her overcome her fear of the ocean. “I got caught in an undertow once, and I said would never go back out there. But when I was invited to join, I challenged myself to get over that fear.”

Boogie Boarders Sunset Beach NC

Ellen Jones was recovering from a broken ankle when she was invited to join the GGBB. “I was scared to death to go in the ocean, but I was also scared of falling again,” she says “Once I got out there, it was so much fun, and these ladies have really welcomed me into this group.”  Between waves, you’ll find the ladies sitting on their boards, floating and talking, waiting for the next wave. This brings up a third rule: It is perfectly ok to leave in mid-conversation to ride a wave.

So, what do other beachgoers think when they see this group of mature women riding waves like they mean it? 
“I was showing my seven-year-old grandson how to boogie board last summer,” Eisenstein says. “I rode in a really good wave and stopped right in front of a group of 20 -to-30-somethings who were tossing a volleyball. They looked impressed and asked me if I wanted to play volleyball. I told them, ‘No thanks, we have a bunch of old ladies who boogie board here.’ One of the young men said, ‘I wouldn’t call you old ladies. I’d call you badasses.’”

The women of Girls Gone Boogie Boarding have embraced that title and have it stenciled on the bottoms of their boards.

Photography by Laura Glantz