Words by Georgina Fearn
The recent footage of Bethany Hamilton towing into Jaws in is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. Not only is she female, not only does she surf with one arm but most amazingly, she gave birth less than 6 months ago.
I applaud Bethany Hamilton in every way that one mother can applaud another. I, however was still struggling to get to my feet 6 months after giving birth;
I found out I was pregnant with my first child 7 months into a surf trip. Severe morning sickness meant a speedy repatriation 2 weeks before G-land, something my husband has still never forgiven me for and I can’t deny I found the sudden impact of pregnancy and later the post natal juggling of child care and surfing deeply challenging.
But life is full of challenges and how we react to them both in and out of the water shapes the new person we become every day.
In Surrender Into Mothering Chris Pritchard writes, “The gift of childbirth challenges us to take nothing for granted, and to flow and to move like a great ocean around and rocky obstacle.” I have had to learn how to change and adapt to being surfing mother. I have learnt to get in the water whenever I can even if the conditions and tide aren’t quite right. I’ve learnt to go in at the first beach I check out; there will not be time to check other spots. And believe it or not, I’ve learnt that sometimes I will miss a surf because it’s parents evening. To all of this I have had to surrender.
Surrendering into motherhood isn’t always easy but there will be the most surprising and wonderful moments too; When I watched my daughter catch her first wave with a beaming smile screaming “can we do that again?,” I was perhaps even more stoked than when I caught my own first wave. As my children grow old enough to begin to explore the ocean themselves, I cannot wait to share this journey with them.
My husband and I used to work on surf camps aboard, but we are learning how to adapt and this year we have decided to take the bold step of setting up a family friendly surf holiday. We believe that our experience as surfing parents means that we can offer a fantastic holiday to other surfing families. The holiday takes place in Portugal on the 22nd October through to the 5th November with the option of booking 1 or 2 weeks. You can find out more about it and enjoy a current 10% off family bookings promotion at www.freespiritholidays.co.uk.
One surfing mother who seems to have balanced childcare and surfing is top British surfer Sarah Bentley. I asked Sarah how she manages it.
Sarah, how has your surfing changed since having children?
At first it was really hard, both physically and mentally, I would paddle out and struggle to catch waves, even on small days and would end up just sitting there whilst everyone else surfed. Obviously my paddle-fitness was nonexistent, but popping to my feet was a real struggle too… especially on my back-hand. However I just kept going in and with each surf, I felt stronger and stronger. I would say it took about four months to get back to my pre-baby surf standard. I now feel that I am a stronger surfer than my pre-baby self. Although I would say that I tend to think twice about going in bigger surf… I guess it’s a Mummy thing!
Is it important to you that your children surf?
I would love my boys to surf, however I have been really conscious of not pushing them, I would hate them to think that it is something that their parents are forcing them to do. My nine year old Luca surfs, but has a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude towards it. He enjoys it but doesn’t necessarily want to spend all day in the sea. he loves the beach so even if he’s not in the water he’ll be exploring the rock pools and caves.
What are your top tips for finding the time to get in the water after having children?
I guess my top tip would be that you have to be really clever with your time….If you are able to find an hour to go surfing then: pick a beach where you can park-up and jump straight it, Perfect your speed change into your wetsuit and paddle for every wave! On the weekends my husband and I will go to the beach as a family and will take it in turns going in the water whilst the other one hangs out with the kids on the beach… we have a strictly 45 minutes each rule which seems to work well and we make sure we pick beaches that are fun and safe for the kids.