The Silver Surfer
With fins strapped to his feet and a board resting under his belly, Theo Joubert is at home. The 64-year-old bodyboarder is no spring chicken, but he is sure showing the younger generation how it’s done, and winning a few major titles along the way.
Waves are born, build and die according to their own inescapable boundaries. They are created when wind kisses the ocean’s surface, their size depending on how long it blows, and how far it travels.
Every experienced surfer knows these rules of the ocean and with that comes a deep respect, an almost spiritual connection which can be tasted with every salty breath. Someone who understands this better than most is Theo Joubert, a Sunny Coast surf legend who rarely goes a day without his ocean fix.
At 64-years-old, Theo is the oldest competing bodyboarder in Australia.
“When I turned 60 they were going to bring in a new category just for me because I have no competition in Australia, but then they laughed and said, well what’s the point? I won’t even have to go to the beach and I’ll be the king of the castle!,” says Theo, laughing off his achievements with the shrug of his shoulders — a common trademark to his carefree nature.
I always think, why be one of the two million mediocre surfers when I can be the one in a million bodyboarder!”
The Silver Surfer, as he is known, had his first taste of board riding in the ‘60s, surfing a well-known break at Jeffreys Bay on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Here he met and became friends with a bevy of Australian tourists, who he says told wild tales of the almond-shaped barrels of their homeland, setting off a travel bug in Theo that, even at just 22-years-old, he could not shake.
“I just jumped on a ship, I didn’t know a single person in Australia, I just jumped on a ship,” Theo remembers of the day he decided to leave South Africa.
“From listening to their (the Australian’s) stories I realised there was a lot more to the world than South Africa was giving me and I wanted to get a taste of it for myself.”
He landed on the shores of Western Australia in 1971, taking off in search of work and the ultimate surf. He was soon traveling to the other side of the country for work, starting a landscaping business in Mackay, close to the beach and the warm waters of Queensland.
“At this stage I was still riding a stand-up board because bodyboarding hadn’t even been invented then, the bodyboarding only started after I lived up in Mackay for a while, but when I did pick it up, I never put it down,” he says.
In 1990, Theo, his wife and their three children, migrated south to the Sunshine Coast in search of a relaxed beachside lifestyle. It was here that Theo started his tree removal business, which he says is still as laborious as it was 20 years ago.
“Chainsaw Charlie they call me,” he laughs. “It’s very active, my work, and bodyboarding is a very active sport, so I am keeping fit by working for bodyboarding and I am keeping fit by bodyboarding for work.”
Not one to shy away from his age, Theo embraces his 60s like turning 21, living life to the brim and taking each wave as it comes.
“I played a game on Facebook the other day, it was asking how old do you think you act? For me it came up 19, which is pretty much how I feel,” he laughs.
“All my friends are young people, I don’t have old people as friends. I am off to Indonesia for a month and the people I go with are the same people I have been going with for years, 24 to 25-year-olds. I am just their mate, there is no mental age between us, I accept people just as they are, by face value. I get on with any age group.”
Theo is a constant statue of dedication to the ocean, not only because of his obvious fitness but because of the friendships he has created behind the break.
“I once was known as the deputy mayor of Maroochydore because of how often I would be seen out there,” he shares. “I welcome anyone to the surf, especially bodyboarders because there are not many of us!
"I always think, why be one of the two million mediocre surfers when I can be the one in a million bodyboarder!”
His connection with bodyboarding goes deeper than just a hobby for Theo, thanking the sport for his injury-free career and maintaining his health.
“I get hay fever a bit, yet as soon as I go into the saltwater everything frees up. I can tell when I haven’t been in saltwater for two to three days, my body just craves it.”
As this issue goes to print, Theo is preparing for his next big competition, ready to take out the Queensland Grand Masters title for a fifth year in a row. With no injuries to slow him down, he has no plans of giving up the sport and in fact believes he is just reaching his peak.
“Even if you asked me how long I would keep surfing for, or even if you asked me how long I would keep working for, I am just going, I will keep going until something stops. I don’t feel my age, nowhere near it.”
Theo, you really put many of us to shame. But then age is just a number afterall.