Should You Surf When You’re Pregnant?

Bethany Hamilton's awesome pregnant pics have got us thinking. Is it really safe to surf for two?

Bethany Hamilton, one of our favourite female surfers, has been all over the internet this week after being snapped surfing while six months pregnant.

We love that Bethany is out there letting it rip and proving that you don’t need to spend a pregnancy putting your feet up and wrapping yourself in cotton wool, but not everyone as sure about seeing a pregnant women on a surfboard.

Should we think twice about catching waves while pregnant?


Bethany is a incredibly good pro surfer, so her body will be more adapted to being on a board than the average woman, but does that mean the rest of should think twice before catching waves or trying any other demanding sports if we’re preggers? We decided to ask a professional.

Photo: Mikala Wilbow Photography

Tread with Caution

Extra care is required when exercising for two. Some pre-natal personal trainers do advise you to stay away from surfing altogether.

Peter Lemon, a personal trainer specialising in pregnancy is very stern on the subject with his clients.

“There are a number of reasons why surfing during pregnancy is a bad idea, if not dangerous. Pregnant women should avoid holding their breath, falling, taking a hit, mild abdominal trauma and waist twisting actions, all of which occur frequently when you are surfing.”

Some pre-natal personal trainers advise staying away from surfing altogether…

“Even the ‘pop up’ action of standing up on the board could be problematic for a pregnant woman. If the conditions are very calm, and you have some previous experience, then you should consider swapping your surfboard for a stand up paddle-board when you are pregnant.

“You should always get the okay from your medical professional before exercising during pregnancy.”

Staying Active Is Really Good For Both Of You

While many trainers like Lee think you should cut out surfing when pregnant all together, the fact is that many women happily surf throughout their entire term. Professional opinion is not unanimous.

“I am more energetic and happy when I have gotten some exercise. It’s crazy, but I feel like I’ve done some of my best surfing prego!” Hamilton told journalists in a recent article.

“Giving birth may be one of the most physical events a woman goes through, so being active and keeping muscles alive and ready is what I believe we need to do.”

I surfed until it was too uncomfortable to lay on a board. It was the best thing ever!

According to trainer Ali Burligham, Bethany’s thinking is pretty spot on.

“Exercise can make you feel better and less tired,” she explains. “It increases the blood and oxygen flow to the placenta and in turn is great for your baby’s growth and development.”

It can also help with reducing stress and depression, headaches, backache, cramps, sleep can improve and so can worries about latter stages of pregnancy.

Photo: Salt Water Mama

“Exercise in water is particularly good in pregnancy as this supportive, buoyant environment enables you to exercise safely by reducing the stress on weight-bearing joints, bones and muscles, while also providing the correct support for your growing bump.”

Ventura surfer Lisa Donkirk agrees. She says that surfing made her pregnancy 100 times more enjoyable.

“I surfed until it was too uncomfortable to lay on a board. From then on I bodysurfed, way into nine months. It was the best thing ever.

“As my tummy grew, it acted like a keel or ballast. A big belly is such an asset to bodysurfing! I would not recommend thumpy shore break, but nice peeling waves are just the ticket. It was a beautiful, fun experience and a relief to feel weightless!”

Be Awesome, But Be Safe 

No two pregnancies are the same and the most important thing is to listen to what your body is telling you and to not to push it too far.

“Exercising whilst pregnant is a bit of a touchy subject,” says Lee Pickering from DW Fitness.

“All women go through pregnancy differently. It helps if you’re into your fitness before pregnancy.”

While the last trimester is when your most likely to feel the effect of being pregnant, it’s the first few months when you’re body hasn’t built up a lot protection that you have to be the most careful about keeping your bump safe.

You have to be the most careful about keeping your bump safe in the first few months

If you know that getting out on the waves is the only choice for you, then there are a few handy tips to keep you and baby safe.

Firstly, there’s nothing wrong with seeing doctor and having a full check up before getting in the water. Everyone should do this!

Once your cleared to get in the water, you might find that your faithful gun won’t do the job anymore.

While they might not be the coolest looking piece of kit in the line up, surf mats are a safer alternative to a standard board when your bump begins to show.

These are blow-up boards with handles, so standing with this board is unfortunately not an option. However, if you’re not ready to call yourself a body boarder just yet, the surf mat is a good compromise.

“Make sure that you’re not pushing yourself beyond your limits” says Lee, “Don’t work too much on your stomach.”

We think that Bethany Hamilton has got the right idea and is in touch with her body and would it needs.

Hit the waves as long as it feels right for you

So, we say hit the waves as long as it feels right for you, but be careful and follow your own bodies lead. Only you know your own confidence and ability in the ocean.

You might not be able to shred it with the big guns at the back like your used to.

Just appreciate the ocean and surf gently until the baby is safe with someone on shore. Then you can get back out there and surf your best.

Remember – nine months isn’t that long!

If you want to check out something super inspiring, Kristi Olivares kept surfing throughout her whole pregnancy. Watch the amazing video here.

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