Surfing Postpartum Might be harder than surfing while pregnant. Here is What to Expect.

If you are wondering if there will be any surfing postpartum in the three months immediately following your child’s birth read on!

Part four of a four part series. Read about Trimesters, 1, 2 and 3.

Keep in mind that every woman’s experience will be different. Big wave surfer, Polly Ralda, was charging just days after giving birth. Another former Iron Woman I know is now ten months postpartum and still hasn’t been able to surf at all. During delivery she had to push for almost four hours because her baby was ten pounds. She now does pelvic floor physical therapy. So every baby is different. This is not meant to be medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about what is best for your body and your baby.

surfing postpartum

There are a number of issues that have made the fourth trimester the hardest to surf in my surfing postpartum experience. Let’s take a look.

Issues to Consider When Surfing Postpartum

#1 Your body just got torn apart.

I decided to have my child without medication and let me just say, wow! I had no clue how much pain a body could survive. I’m pretty sure that is about as close to death as you can come and make it out the other side alive. Although you will be alive afterward, you will be temporarily wounded. If you have a medicated birth you might not be as acutely aware of just how much your body went through. A really good book, The Fourth Trimester: A Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, and Restoring Your Vitality recommends taking 40 days of rest immediately following the birth of your child. This is a time tested tradition that many indigenous cultures still practice today. The book suggests you spend “the first week in the bed, the second week on the bed and the third week around the bed.” Many doctors recommend that women do no more than one flight of stairs per day for the first six weeks. Even walking (as a form of exercise) is discouraged.

surfing postpartum
The hardest thing I’ve ever done followed by the best moment of my life.

In my experience, I felt well enough to walk or possibly even to surf, once the heavy bleeding stopped (after about seven days). But when I did take a three block walk the bleeding started back up – a sure sign I wasn’t healed internally. I know a women who did not take this rest period seriously and as a result lost their milk supply. Other women increased their rectus diastasis (separation of the abdominal wall) by doing too much activity too soon. Even though I waited over five weeks, I started gentle pilates and surfing at that point, and I did indeed increase my abdominal separation. So even after six weeks it is recommended to just surf gentle waves and slowly rebuild strength.

you will be temporarily wounded. If you have a medicated birth you might not be as acutely aware of just how much your body went through

#2 Your baby needs you.

For nine months your child knew nothing but your heartbeat, your voice (mostly), and your energy. That child was you. Cutting the cord does not sever that connection. Some babies will take to dad and grandma or another involved caretaker quickly, some will not. If your baby is colicky like mine, you won’t be able to leave him even for a few minutes. My baby screams when I leave him with anyone for more than 30 minutes. If you are breastfeeding, your baby may or may not take a bottle. If not, that means if she gets fussy there isn’t much anyone can do to calm her except you.  I thought I would be tough and not care if my kid cried without me. I NEVER thought I would be such a helicopter mom. But it’s been proven that mom and baby share the same nervous system. When you hear your little one crying you will feel as distressed as she sounds. When you hear that awful screaming coming from your precious little baby your entire body reacts as if someone is trying to hurt you. You feel panic arise within you. It is biological, and terrible.  Not all babies are so attached to just their mommy in this way. So cross your fingers and hope for the best. 

surfing postpartum
Dad takes a turn on the beach while mom paddles out.
#3 You need your baby.

Even if your baby doesn’t mind you leaving, don’t expect yourself to feel good about leaving him. Especially not to go out into the ocean where you are impossible to reach in case of an emergency. It can really take the fun out of a session when you are worried the entire time. Of course this will fade with time.

#4 You can’t go surfing postpartum whenever you feel like it.

As a surfer, I had arraigned my life to be able to surf when the conditions are ripe for surfing. I was prepared to arrange my work day around the surf forecast. But now my day is arraigned around nap times, feedings and my partner’s work schedule. But my partner surfs too and so do most of my friends. So that means they are often sacrificing their surfing time for me. You may have many wonderful people in your life willing to do this. The more you have the better. Even if grandma lives right next door you still need to be home to put him down for a nap or feed him when he wakes up if you are breastfeeding or if the baby is very attached to just you.

#5 Fear/Caution

This is going to be unique for everyone. Many mom’s, myself included, feel weak and out of shape when surfing postpartum after going through nine months of pregnancy. Couple the lack of paddle strength with the maternal instinct to protect yourself for the sake of your baby and you may find yourself more timid when the waves are pumping. You can and will work through this with time.

#6 Lack of energy

For the first six weeks, I don’t think I would have surfed even if my body hadn’t gone through labor and delivery. I was getting about one hour of sleep per night plus a few 20-minute naps here and there. I spent hours walking laps around the kitchen counter trying to console my baby when the rest of the normal people were sleeping. I was in survival mode. There was no energy left for surfing. Again, every baby is different, hopefully, you get lucky.

As I type this my baby sleeps in my lap. I can’t move or else he will wake. Recently, he will only nap if I’m holding him, which means no surfing during naps either.  I’d love to surf when he wakes up but my partner is at work. Plus the waves are small today and it’s not worth risking a meltdown from the baby, which is probably harder on me than my son. He is three months old. I’ve surfed less than ten times since he was born. But I will say it is getting easier.

surfing postpartum
Getting the baby in the water fir the first time. As rewarding as getting good waves.

All of the above reasons why surfing postpartum might be limited will eventually go away. Each week is easier and the time really does fly by. I’ve been filling my days with hiking since my baby loves to be worn and go for walks. No, it’s not the same but I’m rebuilding my strength and stamina that way. I may have painted a bleak picture but I assure you it is worth it. I know I used to hear people complaining about all the suffering they go through for their children and then they would say, “Yeah but it is all worth it.” I thought they were just saying that to make themselves feel better about an irreversible decision they made. But it actually is true. All the love you get from this tiny creation is actually better than surfing or anything else. Trust me momma, you are going to love it!

Tips to Help you Get in Extra Surfing Postpartum

#1 Wait six weeks postpartum. 

Your body needs this time to heal. The best way to prevent an injury is to rest rest rest! If you surf at week three and tear a ligament because of all the extra relaxin in your blood you could be out for the rest of the season. 

#2 Get your baby comfortable with another caregiver.

I know it is scary, and I’m still working on this, but try to leave him alone for short periods with someone else. Even if you are in the room, try not to rush in and rescue him when he starts crying. Let Dad or another caregiver figure it out for themselves. Always be sure to leave the caregiver with a bottle of freshly pumped breast milk or formula. If your baby won’t take a bottle be sure to feed him just before you paddle out.

surfing postpartum
Hiking with baby has replaced a lot of surf sessions.
#3 Ask for Help

Plenty of your friends are just dying to get their hands on your squishy little person. Given them a chance to babysit while you get a few waves.

#4 Put a Halt on Big Goals

Whether your baby came at the perfect time in your life or was totally unexpected it might be time to press pause and whatever you were working on. If you are particularly focused on improving your surfing that is great, and you can get back to it in time. But now might not be that time. As much as I want to get out there and charge, it just can’t be a priority for me. If it was, my baby would suffer or I would resent him for keeping me from my goal. Right now the only goal is to enjoy my baby. Come to terms with being unproductive for a period of months or years perhaps. Realistically, plan to be mostly on a long board for a year, the last six months of your pregnancy, and the first six months postpartum. Again, this isn’t true for everyone.

Build a strong bond with your child. And soon enough you’ll be back at it. And the likelihood that you will return to whatever you were working on before with more passion, more creativity, and more grace is very very high!

I am a writer and wanna-be big wave surfer. Surfing is my muse. I write about it and how it’s teaching me to live better. I hold certification as a nutritionist, personal trainer, yoga instructor, and lifeguard instructor. My story “100 Days in Mexico” of how a solo road trip surfing my way through Mexico changed my life can be found here


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