It’s been 20 years since the debut “Surfing for Life,” a documentary film that chronicles the lives of 10 men and women who have continued surfing well past the perceived “prime” of an athlete. This film is about surfing, but it primarily revolves around people and how they’ve found an activity that has kept them healthy and grounded for decades. 

Directed by David Brown, the film will be screened twice for free on the Coastside on Saturday, Dec. 14, first at 3 p.m. at Senior Coastsiders, then at

7:30 p.m. at Half Moon Bay Odd Fellows. 

With archival footage dating back to the 1940s, the film was well received when it premiered in 1999, claiming 15 international awards, including Best Documentary at the Hawaii and Malibu international film festivals. 

The featured characters from California and Hawaii provided a treasure trove of stories, with hundreds of years of surfing experience between them. Unfortunately, a few have died since the film’s debut in 1999. There’s LeRoy Grannis, the founder of Surfing Magazine, a surfer for nearly 70 years who was 83 years old at the time of the film. Big-wave pioneer Woody Brown, a ripe 91 in 2001, was surfing in Maui every chance he got. 

“Every year I gain an appreciation for the message and the spirit of those folk,” David Brown said. “They continue to be very inspirational about the keys to healthy aging and meaningful, well-spent lives.” 

Brown’s award-winning documentary filmmaking career spans over 30 years. The San Francisco-based director has long been interested in finding stories on societal, environmental and health issues around the world. The film began as a collaboration between Brown, age 72, and co-producer Roy Ernest, both Bay Area residents. They became interested in documenting surfing’s long-term effects in older people, and how they could be looked at as role models for healthy aging. They found that surfing was more than just a means of consistent exercise, it provided relationships, community and a sense of purpose.  

“It’s 10 portraits of incredibly inspiring people, not just for surfers, but for everybody who’s interested in the keys to a life well spent, as well as healthy aging,” Brown explained. “And these folks have followed their bliss and have lived rich, meaningful lives.”

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