Taking up a hobby can be intimidating at any age, but 89-year-old Seiichi Sano (Japan) loves trying new things.
At the age of 80, after conquering Mount Fuji – the highest mountain in Japan – he suddenly thought to himself: “why don’t I take up surfing?”
And now, Seiichi is the oldest person to surf (male); he was 88 years and 288 days old when the record was verified on 8 July 2022.
Seiichi was born in Hokkaido on 23 September 1933, meaning he’ll celebrate his 90th birthday this year.
After graduating from secondary school, he had moved to Tokyo and attended a wireless telegraph school. It was a post-war environment back then, and Seiichi would take a wide variety of jobs, including as cabaret staff and a doorman at a foreigners’ club.
“I had nothing on my CV, and I had no one to back me up,” he said. “So I had to figure things out on my own. I had no fear, though.”
Later, he went into the timber industry, and eventually moved up the career ladder to have his own business which reached its 50th anniversary this year.
“Business decisions I made were based on instincts and inspiration rather than rational thought, although those instincts and inspiration probably came from years of experience.”
Being the head of a small business meant that he had no time of his own for decades. By the time he had more free time, Seiichi was nearing 80!
One of the things Seiichi tried in his senior life was to climb Mount Fuji. It was as soon as he returned home, he suddenly decided to try out surfing.
And he admits the inspiration came from a surprising place: “I work with a bank manager who has a really tanned skin. I thought he may be a golfer, but when I asked him, he whispered to me, ‘I surf’.”
Three days later, Seiichi was stood in front of a beach with a surfboard and wet suit, ready to soak up the sun. Since then, Seiichi regularly rides the waves, even in chilly winter months. “People tell me surfing is dangerous, but I had far more scary moments in a car than on a surfboard!”
Seiichi is not a professional surfer, and is not interested in mastering common surfing skills. His favourite trick is a 180-degree jump on the surfboard. And oftentimes, he enjoys simply sitting on his board and taking in the view.
Seiichi says he is the sort of person who usually quits something wihtin three days. When asked why he still surfs, he said: “You do it for three days, then you take a break, and you do it again for three days, and so on. If you go into new things with a mindset that you don’t have to continue trying forever, I think most people actually continue for a very long time.”
However, he also has a rebellious spirit. “I’ve been told I am a fool. But it didn’t bother me because I always thought people who say that kind of things are fools. I’m not perfect, but not too bad either.”
By becoming a world record holder, Seiichi wants to contribute to his hometown. “With a name value [like a world record title], I think you influence a lot more people.”
“Holding the Guinness World Records certificate, I feel for the first time I have been acknowledged for something. And it’s making a lot of people – including the bank manager who made me think about surfing – happy. Whether it be surfing or world record titles, it’s the can-do attitude that will get you there, not logic. Don’t complicate things. Just think that even this old grandpa’s done it – you should be able to achieve something as well!”
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