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Why More Mums Should Go Surfing

Why More Mums Should Go Surfing

Balancing surfing with motherhood isn’t easy. But it’s worth it. Surfing mum Hayley Lawrence explains why more mums should hit the waves. 

While it’s inspiring to see so many more women surfing these days on all kinds of surfboards, there’s still only a handful of mums out there in the line-up. After all, motherhood leaves us little time and freedom to live at the beck and call of the tides. Buckling under the demands of parenting, your fitness levels can plummet, energy levels nose dive, and before you know it, your surfboard is hanging on the wall collecting dust. But there are so many reasons why mums should prioritise time to go surfing: Fitness. Confidence. Resilience. Fun. And that’s just for starters.

surfing mum

As a mum of three wild things, surfing has been the superpower that’s kept me going. The lessons I’ve learned in the ocean have made me a better, more capable mum: The courage to paddle out and take risks. The stamina to keep going when I’m exhausted. The strength to get up again and again after wipeouts. The deep breaths needed to stay calm. And the patience required to save your energy for the right waves.

Don’t just take my word for it. Keen to share the benefits of surfing with more mums, I’ve unravelled some of the scientific proof behind how surfing boosts us mentally and physically, and caught up some other inspirational surfing mums who’ve have reaped the rewards of riding waves while riding the ups and downs of parenthood.

Surfing mums

Surfing boosts your wellbeing

Firstly, let’s get scientific about it. Surfing is good for you, and that’s a fact. Simply immersing yourself in the cold waves triggers your parasympathetic nervous system, lowering your blood pressure, stimulating digestion and promoting relaxation. Parenting can be stressful, and surfing is a great way to combat that stress. 

Then there’s the mindfulness of surfing. The dancing light, movement and sound of the waves that overrides internal thought patterns and snaps you back into the moment. So whether you’re bobbing around in the whitewater, thinking about your pop up, or paddling out trying to avoid taking the next set of waves on your head, the sensory overload wrenches you from to-do lists and the parenting load. Then, when you step back on land, you’ve had a micro-break, leaving you rejuvenated, relaxed and ready to step back into your mum shoes. 

As marine biologist Angie Abell, mum of two, sums up: “Being a mum is exhausting at times and it’s often a struggle to prioritise your hobbies. But when I get a chance to surf it reminds me how important it is to get some headspace and take time to do something for me. I am definitely a better mum for it.”

Surfing is good for your sleep

As mums we’re often sleep deprived, up to our eyeballs with chores, trying to maintain careers and relationships, while being peace keepers, carers, cooks and taxi drivers. So it’s no surprise that we often don’t feel like we’ve got the energy to go surfing. However, playing in the waves can improve energy levels and broken sleep patterns. All the time you’re out there getting a whopping dose of vitamin sea, you’re breathing lungfuls of sea air containing negative ions – which boosts your body’s ability to absorb oxygen and helps balance serotonin levels. So when you do get the time to rest, you’ll get much better quality sleep. 

Surfing fast tracks your fitness

There are few sports that whip you back into shape faster than surfing. It’s a vigorous, entire body workout, burning calories at the same rate as a gym session or game of football – all while being low-impact on your joints (as long as you’re not out barrel-hunting and big-wave riding). It’s also great for cardiovascular fitness and a healthy heart, builds strength and co-ordination, and all while connecting you Mother Nature and stoking your vitamin D supplies. 

“Surfing is physically demanding, builds strength and mentally it’s refreshing as it focuses your mind on that one goal of getting to your feet – so all other worries, commitments, responsibilities are forgotten for that time that you’re in the sea. I come out buzzing but also feeling nicely wound down, relaxed and content,” explains surfing mum Briony Anscombe. Adding that: “Learning to surf has been a scary, often frustrating but hugely rewarding experience. After many wipeouts and near quitting, the sense of total freedom and exhilaration when I finally managed to get to my feet was totally liberating and addictive. It gave me a massive sense of achievement.”

Surfing increases your confidence

As you go through ‘matrescence’ (the physical, psychological and emotional process of becoming a mother) you can often experience a loss of confidence and self-esteem, which prevents us from taking risks and pushing our boundaries in the same we did before having children. So when it comes to surfing, the waves look bigger, take offs look steeper and you might well find yourself standing on the beach feeling like you can’t paddle out in the sort of waves you used to love. Whether you’re learning to surf, or getting back into surfing, the more your face your fears and push your boundaries, your confidence starts to grow not only in the sea, but in other areas of your life, too. 

“It took two or three years to get back in the sea properly after having kids,” admits Claire Stafford, mum of three and Events Manager for SurfAid. “You have to be assertive out there. You have to commit and take right of way. And when you become a mum, everything about your identity changes. I might not be quite as quick at popping up these days, but I feel really strong and more confident. Now I don’t care if I wipeout. I just want to have a good time.”

surfer mum

Surfing is fun

After all, surfing is all about fun. And when you’re carrying a heavy mum-load, it’s easy to forget about having fun. Surfing enables us to step back from our more serious roles and park our responsibilities on the shore. Like many mums, I’m an advocate of the dawnie, sneaking out to get my fill of waves before anyone else is up. Holly Beck of Surf with Amigas does the same: “I get up very, very, very early. I like to go for a quick surf, knowing the rest of the day is going to be all about the kids.” And these days, as an ex pro surfer, for Holly it’s more about fun than performance. “I’ve noticed that my relationship to surfing has changed. I don't need to be out there as long as I used to. I get satisfaction in a few good waves or just paddling out into the ocean. I appreciate the little things more.”

Surfing isn’t selfish 

My addiction to surfing has led me to being accused of being selfish in the past. But surfing isn’t selfish. It’s self care. And it can be your superpower, too. When mums do something to look after their own health and wellbeing, it feeds back into them being happier, healthier parents. So next time you pick up your surfboard and feel that pang of guilt that you should be doing something with the kids, or for the kids, or cleaning up after the kids, change your inner dialogue to reassure yourself that you are doing something vital for your family. You’re looking after you, and that’s the most important thing for everyone. 

Dr Easkey Britton, surfer, Blue Health Scientist and writer, now juggles her passion for surfing with young twins: “I think it's important for my kids to see that their mum goes off and does this thing for herself that really lights her up, and when she comes back all salty with wet hair, she's alive and full of energy.”

Surfing mum

So, if you want to be that mum – the one with salty locks, sandy toes and bursting with energy – it’s time to hit the surf. There is no hobby quite like it to boost your fitness and wellbeing, promote mindfulness, relieve stress and teach us important lessons that can help us through our parenting journey. And all the while you reap the benefits of surfing and reconnect with yourself and nature, with any luck you’ll pass on your love of the ocean and a healthy outdoor lifestyle to your children.

Top tips for mums getting back into surfing:

Start a fitness regime
Pilates and yoga are perfect for building strength and balance, while swimming and jogging will work your cardio-vascular fitness and give you more stamina when you hit the surf. 

Eat well
When you’re tired it can be easy to grab comfort food and sugary snacks to fuel up. Swap the carb and sugar overload for wholegrains, veg, vitamin-packed smoothies and protein balls, and you’ll have more energy for surf sessions.

Join a club
Find a local surfing group where you can meet other surfing mums to motivate you and make surfing fun. 

Ride a bigger board

Less frequent surf sessions and less paddle power often means your wave count dips. So try a surfboard with more volume to enable you to catch more waves and boost your ride time, confidence and stoke.

Take your time

Ease yourself back into surfing gently. Build up your stamina and ocean fitness with sea dips, bodysurfing, bodyboarding and bellyboarding – getting used to playing in the waves again to remember how much fun it is. 

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