I never wanted much fame or fortune for anything in life. I certainly never expected it from surfing. And to be honest, I will never be famous or get rich from surfing, but I have been surprised by how many women and men are interested to hear more about this moment in my life as a surfer: surfing pregnant. Although I was just doing my thing, in the past few months I have been asked for interviews, articles and I even received gifts by people who just happened to see me in the water.
When I found out I was pregnant, I was so scared of losing this lifestyle I had grown to love. I knew it meant my selfish all-day surf sessions were going to be drastically minimized – and possibly come to a screeching halt. As embarrassing as it is to admit, yes, I know, how selfish of me. So yep, there I was pregnant. And while I welcomed my widening hips, bulging breasts and quickly growing belly, what I feared most was the dreadful day I would have to take that temporary leave of absence from surfing.
I never made a decision to be a pregnant surfer. I just couldn’t bear to say goodbye. So I surfed through my pregnancy, taking it one day at a time and always checking in with my intuition to make sure I got the green light. If all the factors aligned, then baby and I would go for a few slides.
Within the first three months, I became pretty insecure about surfing at my favorite local break. Between failed duck dives and closeout sets, the washing machine cycle of beach-break shortboarding suddenly just felt wrong. So I switched to longboarding. I have always been more confident on a longboard anyhow, so that was a pretty easy call to make.
“If we only lived in Raglan or Byron where there are mellow point breaks,” became a pretty common phrase from me over the months. As my baby grew (and therefore my belly grew), instinct told me to paddle on my knees and to go out only when the swell was reasonably small. My surf sessions became increasingly shorter, but I was still surfing. That made me a whole lot happier. It definitely made me nap harder as well.
To most surfers, living in Bali is a dream, but to be honest, it is not necessarily a pregnant surfer’s dream. The waves are all too often big and powerful. The easiest surf breaks are nearly always super crowded.
So when all the factors came together: enough energy, small waves, manageable crowds, and a “personal lifeguard” to accompany me (as in a friend to watch over me), green light! The last few months I insisted on having someone with me in the water to make sure there was always a little help in case my leash snapped or I suddenly became exhausted. Lucky me, my lifeguard is a water photographer who is also my partner-in-crime as well as my baby’s daddy. (Thank you, Stuart).
Then, overnight I went from large to downright massive. I thought that was it; my surfing days were over. After nearly two weeks out of the water, I felt pretty low and sad. Intuition was not giving me the green light and all remaining hope to get in the water was quickly diminishing. Stuart convinced me to swim more. He would tell me, “Just get out there.” So I did.
It didn’t take long (and one swift little rip current) for us to decide it was best for me to swim in the ocean with flippers. First came the flippers, second came the hand plane, and next thing you know I became a woman whomping machine, a baby-making bodysurfer, and a much happier pregnant chick. Just like that, this surfer girl got her groove (or glide) back.
That’s the story. As I got bigger, the waves got smaller. The fewer waves I caught, the more I appreciated each and every one. And when it just became a bit too hard to surf anymore, I found another way to enjoy the waves by surfing on top of baby, bare-belly as a bodysurfer.
I am continuously amazed at the feedback I get for staying in the waves throughout this transitional time of my life. I know surfing pregnant is not for everyone. But for me – my mind, my body, my intuition, my baby and my own happiness – it seemed like the right thing to do.
As long as I have been alive I thought nothing could ever slow me down. These past few months I realized the truth. Growing a human is really tiring. Sometimes even the best surfers in the world have medical conditions that keep them out of the water. While pregnant, you go through so many changes mentally, physically, psychologically and spiritually. The life lesson of slowing down isn’t easy, but if that is what your body is telling you when you are pregnant, I believe it is super important to listen to that. I am not writing this to tell others to follow my lead, to surf pregnant, to be really active. Oh no, if anything, I would suggest you follow your own lead. Only you know what is best.
Looking ahead, I have no idea how this motherhood or surfing mom thing is going to work out. I hope that just like surfing pregnant, I will grow and adapt to find a way to make it all work for me, my partner and little grom. No matter what, I vow to stay inspired and continue pursuing my dreams no matter how many obstacles (or massive bellies) get in the way. But more than anything, I will trust my inner voice and the guidance of my heart.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story. Perhaps you would like to continue onto another blog I wrote and help me raise funds for the incredible donation-based birthing center here in Bali, Bumi Sehat Foundation. It’s founded by my amazing selfless midwife, Robin Lim, who tirelessly works so hard to save the lives of many Indonesian women and children, while delivering a whole lot of babies in this beautiful country I am so lucky to live in and call home, Indonesia.