More and more older people are taking up surfing, a sport that intrigued them in younger days and which they have more time for now that their children are grown and their work schedules are less busy.

Experts say surfing can help older people improve their body strength, but advise them not to overreach.

Along the Kugenuma coast in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, 61-year-old Koji Miyata battled the waves amid a crowd of surfers in mid-August. Hiroto Okawa, 59, who runs a surfing school, watched and made signals. Miyata paddled with both hands and jumped up onto the board.

“I still lose my balance a lot, but it’s fun when I can ride a wave,” said Miyata, who is self-employed.

He first became interested in surfing around 30 years ago, but was busy with work and raising his children, so he never took it up seriously. Now his two children are over 30 years old and he can work at his own pace, so he began surfing again last year.

According to the Nippon Surfing Association, which conducts skill tests and organises competitions for amateurs, it had only 26 members aged 59 or older registered for short board competitions in fiscal 2010. However, the number grew to 121 in fiscal 2015. Surfing enthusiasts in Japan are said to number 2 million, and older surfers are believed to be increasing.