Surfing is Hard
Surfing is hard. Essentially, all committed surfers spend their entire lives dealing with freezing feet, overhyped swells, dawn patrols, damp wetsuits, wipeouts and hold downs and never ever surf like Kelly Slater or Bethany Hamilton. They don’t even get close. Yet, as a surfer, you spend every free moment you get bobbing up and down in the ocean waiting for your version of the perfect wave. “Just one more wave” becomes your mantra as the days turn into months and months into years. Maybe you did a really committed turn today, but tomorrow the waves might be so big that you don’t even make it out past the breakers.
Having a Baby Makes Surfing Harder
You know what makes surfing even harder? Becoming a mother! Start with months out of the water during pregnancy, add abdominal separation, weight gain and the birth of a new little creature that can’t exactly be left on the beach while you surf and you have a recipe that makes some women give up on surfing all together.
I was fortunate that I could surf up until I was seven months pregnant, that I had a relatively easy natural birth and a healthy daughter. Six weeks after giving birth, I thought I was ready to surf again. I took my wider, easier to paddle fish surfboard out in some little waves and I could barely stand up! As time went by, I grew stronger and was able to surf; but a new issue arose whenever the waves were more than chest high: FEAR! I would whip myself to the brink of a mental breakdown every time the conditions became the least bit challenging. When my partner, daughter and I flew to the surfing paradise of Bali in Indonesia when she was 5 months old, my fear issues pinnacled. I cried and I barely surfed at spots that I had loved just a year before.
Giving birth had been a major life event for me and it brought up all kinds of emotions that lasted long after I left the hospital. My irrational fear of surfing conditions in which I had previously been completely comfortable with was one of those emotions that I just couldn’t live with. When I returned home from Bali, I started a pragmatic process to overcome this fear. I trained in and out of the water. I took a surf survival course and learned how to deal with being held under. I examined all the potential dangers that came to mind about surfing and dismissed the ones I couldn’t control and prepared for the ones I could.
Find Your Tribe, Improve Your Vibe
Eventually, I became more comfortable in the water and started doing a few local contests with the girls from my neighborhood. I also joined a Surfing Mums Group that met each week and did “surf swaps.” I found an amazing support group of women of all surfing abilities that were going through the same thing I was: blending the surfer with the mother. One thing about these women, they all wanted to improve their surfing and perform to the best of their abilities.
You Don’t See Your Stoke on Film
Everyone was working through the various stages of their surfing and motherhood: recovering from pregnancy, surfing green unbroken waves, surfing bigger waves on shorter boards. Everyone wanted to get better. We’d often hire a coach to film a group of the girls and give feedback about our surfing.
While you’re surfing, you feel like you’re killing it! You say to yourself, “Did the coach get that big turn I did? My massive spray or roundhouse cutback? How good are the waves today! It’s at least a couple of feet overhead.” Later that day we would watch the footage and immediately be humbled. Your critical carve looks more like a drawn-out banana. The pumping waves were actually two foot dribble. There’s you surfing in your head and then there’s you actually surfing, which are two totally different things. It’s easy to judge yourself and feel down. Photos and videos might show how you were surfing, but they don’t measure how much fun you are having.
If I’m Doing What I Love, it Doesn’t Matter if it Looks Good
Today, I surf a lot. All the time. I sneak out of work, hire babysitters and do early morning swaps with my husband. I am an addict. I surf by myself, with moms, with friends and in contests. I’ve even started winning some of these contests against women who are not yet mothers. I love every minute of it.
But if you watch the videos of me surfing, I still suck. I am such a kook. I keep practicing my bottom turns, hitting the lip and committing to every maneuver and the results vary. But like so many things in motherhood, appearances go out the window. I don’t give up and don’t let the videos get to me because I am having the time of my life.
No matter where you are on your journey as a mother or athlete, if you love something, don’t give it up. While doing a certain trick, surfing a gnarly wave or climbing a treacherous mountain may be the end goal, you should judge yourself ultimately by how good you feel when you’re working towards that goal. If you love what you’re doing, you’ve already hit the mark in my book. Even if you suck on video.
About Audrey Hills
Audrey Hills is the founder and primary contributor at surfstokedmoms.com. She is a 33 year old surfer who considers some of her greatest achievements to be surfing better, training harder, and being more committed in challenging conditions AFTER having her daughter.