She has reached a point in her life when most people would be thinking about putting their feet up and easing into retirement.

But instead of slowing down, grandmother Anne-Marie Walker is on the crest of a wave – literally – after learning to surf at the age of 72.

Despite a life-long fear of the sea, which saw her learn to swim only last year, the Moray woman decided to take the plunge alongside her water-loving grandchildren and took a turn on the waves near her home in Forres. 

And now says she is “exhilarated” after braving the chilly North Sea on a surf board for the first time just a fortnight after her 72nd birthday.

The disabled widow, who struggles with mobility and balance, said: “If I can do it, anyone can.”

She was assisted by instructor Kevin Anderson, of SurfABLE Scotland, which gives people of all ages and abilities the chance to ride a wave. And during her first lesson she learned to lie, kneel and stand up on the board.

Mrs Walker said: “When I saw the waves, I said to my daughter, ‘I’m not going in that’. 

“I really was quite scared and nervous about how I was going to cope. But I wasn’t scared when I was in the water.

“I was lying on the board and the sea smacked me in the face and I didn’t say anything. It was alright – and coming from me that was something.

“We went in up to chest height and we had to battle to get out there. My feet got taken away but I didn’t go under, I had a hand on the board.

“It was fun. I would do it again.”

The mother-of-three had to be plucked to safety as a young child when the tide threatened to pull her out to sea, leaving her with a phobia of the water for decades.

But with eight grandchildren aged between 13 and two, who are keen surfers, she decided she wanted to be prepared for any “mishaps”.

Mrs Walker said: “I have always had a healthy respect for the water.
“When I was seven or eight, I was playing on rocks and the tide was going out and suddenly my feet weren’t supported by the sand. Another family realised I was in trouble and pulled me out. I didn’t go under the water, but I had no footing.”

She never ventured into the sea after that and never learned to swim. Instead, she stuck to sports like tennis and golf. Mrs Walker said: “I was always nervous and I did not want my head in the water, never mind my face.

“But I felt I had to do it. I have three grandchildren up here who are all learning to swim and I’ve watched them for a good few lessons and if I go in the pool, I just stand there. I thought I should learn to swim in case of the odd mishap or if they need help.”

The 72-year-old, who has two disintegrated discs in her neck leaving which has left her with restricted movement down her left side, has been learning to swim at her local pool since the summer.

She told how previous attempts to learn to swim had failed because of the fear factor, saying : “Nobody taught me to swim before, and I had to dig deep and do it. I had toyed with the idea of it on and off but then always chickened out.”
But with the use of goggles and a snorkel, and encouragement from her instructor, she gradually built up her confidence in the water.

Mr Walker, who has now learned front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke, said: “I wouldn’t have said a year ago I would be doing this. I’m lucky to have Kevin as my instructor. He is so patient.” And with regards to surfing, she added: “It was just me having a go at something new. It was exhilarating.

“I won’t be diving out of a helicopter or an aeroplane or anything like that –  that’s three steps too far. But surfing definitely beats golf any day,” she said.
And to anyone else thinking about it, she had this message: “Just go for it. Don’t be afraid and get the right people to help you – and don’t leave it as late as I did.”

Mr Anderson, sports development manager at SurfABLE Scotland, who taught the pensioner to swim and surf, hailed his student “amazing”. He said: “All that time spent in the water has helped. She came off the board at one point and there was no sense of panic or apprehension. She did excellently. It’s a really nice progression.

“There was so much energy about Anne-Marie, she was up for giving everything I suggested a shot. 

“This was her first shot of taking a wave on a board and she gave it a right good go.

“It was brilliant, mostly because she was loving it. 

“She’s the oldest one [I’ve taught] surfing, for sure. She was amazing.”