Inspiring Stories

Sally, 66: Making Waves

Meet Sally Saenger. She’s one of the 2022 Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes, and she’ll be sharing updates on her health & wellness journey through the rest of this year. Today, Sally is taking us through her fitness story — one that involves a love of the ocean and surfing. At age 66, Sally is dedicated to competing, teaching, and living life to the fullest.

I love to be in the water. It’s in my blood. My mom was a standout athlete, especially as a swimmer. She was instrumental as a role model for me to live an active lifestyle. I started playing in the ocean at a young age. I fell in love with the art and athleticism of surfing the first time I caught a wave, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Surfing is a very unique sport: you are on a moving surface (surfboard) navigating your way through a dynamic and ever-changing environment (the wave). To say that it’s not an easy sport to master is an understatement. Succeeding at surfing takes a lot of practice — more than the usual sporting activity — and you must practice regularly and with intent.

Despite requiring serious dedication to become proficient, surfing is fun even if you’re not very skilled. That’s another reason why I love the sport. I can be sitting in a lineup with a professional athlete on one side of me and a novice surfer on the other side, and we’re all enjoying the experience together. And, age doesn’t matter.

Challenging stereotypes

“I was the oldest female participant in the event and proud of it!”

I started entering competitions in my mid 40s, with the most recent contests taking place this past year in Malibu, San Clemente, and at Rincon Beach. Rincon is in my home town of Santa Barbara and is the famed “Queen of the Coast” surf break. I was honored to be invited to surf in the “Lady Legends” division of the contest this year. I was the oldest female participant in the event and proud of it!

Because of the nature of the sport, I realize that someday I’ll have to give up surfing. But right now, I can’t even imagine that day. As a 66 year old avid female surfer, I know I am challenging the stereotype of aging and that’s fine with me.

A balancing act…

Maintaining strength, balance, and agility is so important as we age, and surfing challenges each of those aspects of my fitness. If I don’t keep up with my cardio routine, I won’t last long while surfing. When the waves are lacking, I know I need to swim or do pool exercises and keep up with my land-based workouts in order to be ready for when the swell hits.

I’m also fortunate to teach health and fitness classes for older adults. This helps me stay in shape while I share my knowledge about wellness, strength, and balance with my senior students. My focus areas are strength and stability twice a week, and cardio three times a week. Flexibility and agility exercises are also embedded in all my workouts.

“Let’s all work together to dispel the outdated perspectives on aging.”

I encourage you to participate in a physical activity that brings you joy, no matter what your age or physical ability. Let’s all work together to dispel the outdated perspectives on aging. Join me on at 3:00pm EDT on Wednesday, April 20th, for a fun presentation on balance, where you’ll learn simple ways to improve your stability (Click here for details). I hope to see you then!

In need of a little motivation to get moving? Join our daily health and wellness programs, stay tuned to the latest news and articles from by signing up for The Orbit weekly newsletter, and follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) to get to know these awe-inspiring athletes. You might just find a new love for fitness along the way!


16 responses to “Sally, 66: Making Waves

  1. Sally, love your story. You are sooo very inspirational. I am super impressed with your abilities and especially how you have sustained through the years! I am not a strong swimmer and that makes me admire you so much more. Kudos to your mom for introducing you at an early age. We can all learn from your experience … introduce children to various activities, they may discover a lifelong passion as you have.

    P.S.: I missed your live session, but waiting for the video to be posted!

    1. Thank you, Carolyn, for your comments. I do hope to inspire others to keep moving no matter what their ability level or previous experience. It’s never too late to start being active.
      Besides the video being posted, I’ll also be doing four morning sessions (11:30 east coast time) starting this Thursday. I hope you can join in!

      1. SmittyInPhilly here. I found your Balance Matters via AARP, very refreshing with more what I was looking for in weekly exercising with balance in mind. I am over 70, retired, and want to keep exercising via zoom to allow me to enjoy more outdoor activities in up-coming warmer weather? I really appreciate your Balance Matters classes. I just wanted to say, “Thank You”, for providing this class to us.

      1. As a former surfer (ventura, calif) I am enjoying the strength & fitness class offered by Sally Saenger. Let’s continue with this class.

  2. I’m impressed by Sally’s commitment to helping seniors stay active, and respect her enormously for that effort, but featuring a woman who has been athletic her whole life as an inspiration to all 65+ seniors is in reality – simply featuring another outlier who most of us know we couldn’t come close to matching, and don’t want to. We want to be as active as the aging process allows and most of us know that involves continuing to be physically active, often when you don’t feel like it.

    1. I appreciate your comments, LS, and I can understand your perspective.
      I believe Senior Planet wants to feature all types of active seniors, even those who were athletes when they were young. It’s my hope that each person can find their own level of participation in an enjoyable activity that keeps them moving throughout their life. As I said in another comment, it’s never to late to start moving!

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