I’ve never considered myself a surfer.
Growing up in the outdoors and training to be a multi-activity instructor, I had this perception that I had to be really good at the things I did. In reality, this was a very unrealistic expectation I didn’t realise that I was living with. When you’re instructing over eight different outdoor sports in any given week, it's unlikely that you’re going to be a semi-pro in even one of those.
It wasn’t until I had a baby that my whole paradigm shifted.
I went into the outdoor industry, like so many others, because I enjoyed the sports I taught, as a hobby first and foremost. There are a myriad of other reasons too, but this was the base. So, post-baby, I was back at the beginning again. After having my entire body reshaped by a small human, I was rediscovering my limitations. Not only having to rebuild my physical strength and endurance, but also mental resilience. It was so hard.
Time is also paramount when you’re breastfeeding a little one. Energy is finite. I had to ask myself that question,
“If I only have one hour for myself today, what do I really want to do?”
During this frustrating process of wrestling with my fitness levels I also realised for the first time in my life that I actually don’t have to be any good at my hobbies. I just have to enjoy them. The whole point of these activities is that they bring me life.
Not for performance, not to be able to teach someone else. Not to perfect a skill. Just simply because I like doing it. This time in the sea was golden. I learned so much about myself, my physical capabilities and the value of joy!
And the more mums I spoke to, the more I realised that my journey wasn’t unique. There is so much you can’t do when you’re growing a baby. Unlearning that mindset on the other side of childbirth is a huge challenge. And this thought process also wasn’t restricted to mothers either.
Last summer, my sister and I ran a Womens SUP club. It was brilliant. As we crept out of another lockdown, we had the honour to coach women into new spaces of learning. Facing fears, making new friends and trying something new. Unlocking restrictive mindsets that we oftentimes don’t even notice we have.
This summer, four of girls started the Gower Women’s Surf Society. Not because we’re pros, or even any good at surfing. Because we know the value of providing space for women. That when women come together in a positive way, we just naturally build community.
First and foremost, that’s what we’re about; community.
Making time for yourself is important. No matter what stage in life you’re at, you can do it - and it doesn’t matter what ‘doing it’ looks like for you at that time. It’s never about performance or what you look like. It’s about acceptance. Encouragement.
It's quickly become an invaluable space to learn, grow and encourage others. We're still in the very infancy of this group. But already we've seen the fruit. Being able to journey with others eradicates loneliness and oftentimes takes the pressure or intensity out of a situation. And the method doesn't have to be complicated. Simply, having a coffee, hanging out with friends and getting in the sea.
Not for any purpose other than pure joy.
Image credit: Carys Griffiths
Words by Ebbi Rose