It’s been said repeatedly in songs, memes and poems that we don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone but, like most, the message didn’t really hit home until surfing was taken from me and my life changed…
Surfing is, by its nature, quite a selfish, individual pursuit and, until 2006, it was something that had defined my adult life. I’d turned my back on my uni degree and a well paying government job because it cut into my surfing time. I’d moved to the coast and qualified as a yoga teacher and a surf coach so I could surf more. I’d travelled the world surfing. I’d worked on boats in the Maldives. I’d taken surfing for granted.
And then I got pregnant. Avoiding ‘high risk’ activities such as surfing didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time. I could surf as much as I wanted once the baby was born, couldn’t I? Looking back I’m not sure what I thought I’d do with my baby while I was surfing but I soon learned that I couldn’t go out for a sneaky session before work or at lunchtime, and I couldn’t have that cherished LAGO at the end of a long day. Although it’s common to leave your dog on the beach guarding your gear, it’s generally frowned upon to leave a baby under a beach umbrella to do the same!
I can’t describe my relief on hearing about a bunch of mums in Byron who met on the beach to swap surfing for baby-minding. Less than a month later and the Northern Sunshine Coast Surfing Mums group was the largest in the country. Finally I had a group of people who not only understood my perceived selfishness, they supported it.
As parents, we’re often defined by our kids. We hang out with parents who have kids the same age, do the same sports, or have the same interests. The friends I have made through Surfing Mums though are defined by our shared love of surfing – by us as adults, not by our children.
When my son was 18 months old, we moved to a village in the Solomon Islands and it was my friends from Surfing Mums who visited. “Uncrowded, tropical waves? Cheap babysitters? We’re there!” We traipsed through jungles to do the morning surf check, took our kids logging at Skull Island, and swam with sharks… and when I got pregnant again, it was a friend from Surfing Mums who became my daughter’s godmother.
Over the last eight years some of the closest friendships I’ve formed have been through Surfing Mums – that we’re raising healthy, happy kids in the outdoors is a bonus. Now my kids are both at school and although I don’t make it down to the group meets as often as I used to, I’ll never forget how Surfing Mums gave me back surfing. And I’ll never take surfing for granted again.