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Returning Rise Up guest, Shazia Mazhar (@cybershaz), shares her journey of learning to surf in her 40’s after hitting the ‘reset’ button on life. 

photos: Matt Lantz (@freelantz_cr)

“Sometimes it takes a life change to show you who you really are, to understand your soul, to return to your roots. And often that journey isn’t an easy one; riddled with doubt, fear, with moments of exhilaration and hope.

Prior to 2014, I did a lot of sports, mainly team sports, running and cycling. These made me happy. They felt good for my body, but I don’t think I could say they were joyous (except maybe the moment of crossing the finish line in a marathon). In February of that year, I went on my first proper surf trip. I had tried surfing a few times before, but not beyond lying on a foamy and being pushed into waves. Spending a week with waves, as a total beginner opened my desire to learn more. 

Upon my return home from that trip, my world flipped upside-down with the break-up of my marriage and selling my home—and I felt like I was starting all over again. But I found my anchor: I kept coming back to the feeling of the water, the acceleration of the wave. I started Standup Paddle Surfing in the Great Lakes around Toronto, Canada. 

Fast forward to Christmas, I booked a surf retreat in Nicaragua with the Rise Up familia. At this point, I had surfed only a few times as I’d mainly been focusing on Standup Paddleboarding. We quickly made friends with other guests at the camp, and I looked at some of their surfing ability in awe. My beginners group would have our surf coaching session while the more advanced crew would be out on the boat exploring new spots every day. I remember thinking, “one day I want to surf with them.” That is when the next part of my journey started, even though surfing at an older age—in my 40’s—felt daunting.

Over the past three years, I have pushed myself to surf as much as possible. In the Great Lakes, in the ocean, wherever I can. My surf travels have taken me to Iceland, Azores, Peru, Barbados, Colombia, Guatemala, and beyond. But all roads lead me back to surfing in Northern Nicaragua; the place my heart resides. This past Christmas, I was back with my favourite people, and I’ll never forget one day sitting on the waves with my surf sister Alix. I looked at her and said “3 years ago my goal was to surf the same waves as you, and here we are today.”

I still struggle with improving my surf ability, taking bigger waves, and making the right moves. But then I remind myself how far I’ve come. Surfing is a journey—every wipeout and every scary moment is rewarded with a dozen other waves that bring you pure joy. It is amazing what we can do when we know what is in our heart. 

Thank you to the Rise Up familia for helping me unlock my love for surfing and for surrounding me with an amazing surf community in Nicaragua. 

Start dreaming of your next surf adventure with Rise Up!


One Comment

  • Danielle Romanowsky says:

    I love this story. It’s pure, honest and true. Shazia, you are a very inspiring mermaid! Congratulations on a fantastic journey so far!

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