Surfing Moms

Moms Bond Over Waves and Friendship

Moms Bond Over Waves and Friendship

For many new moms, staying home with a baby can lead to feelings of isolation and even to postpartum depression. Amanda Renschler experienced this firsthand. Happily, she found solace and support after she had her third child (now 8) through Surfing Moms, a nonprofit that focuses on maternal wellness and helping moms like herself.

The Nicasio resident read about the organization, which started in 2018 as a grassroots effort between friends in Kailua, Hawaii. It was during the height of the pandemic when many parents were feeling isolated that Renschler decided to start a chapter in Marin.

How it works:  Surfing Moms members take turns watching kids on the beach while the other moms go surfing. The organization was founded by Elizabeth Madin in Australia. It started as a childcare swap for mothers longing to catch some waves. When Madin moved to Hawaii, she turned the group into a nonprofit that has since grown to about 22 groups and 400 members across the country. 

In the Bay Area, there are three chapters:  Marin, Pacifica and Santa Cruz. It costs $52 per year to join, giving members access to an app with meet-up dates, times and locations for each chapter.

“It really helped me to have a sense of being a part of something bigger,” says Renschler, who is the Marin coordinator and serves on the Surfing Moms board. “It’s a movement to create support for mothers.  Part of what makes this different is that we’re supporting each other in and near the ocean.”

The Healing Power of Waves

Being in and near water can be very healing and therapeutic, says Renschler, who is a clinical psychologist. In the book “Blue Mind” by Wallace Nichols, the author writes about how healthy and uplifting it is to be near the water. As a psychologist, Renschler offers surfing/relationship building workshops for mothers and daughters. In addition to surf lessons, Renschler talks with the group about the lessons learned from surfing and how it applies to our lives and facilitates healthy relationships.

“There is something so healing about riding waves,” she says. “For me personally, it can be a spiritual experience. It’s such a wild experience. It’s such a freeing experience. It’s very much about the mental and physical and emotional health of our moms. I think that sets us (Surfing Moms) apart.”

The Marin group typically surfs at Bolinas and Stinson beaches with meetings dependent on weather. The surfing experience of members varies, Renschler says. Some have been surfing for years, while others are just starting out. There are members who don’t know how to surf and want to learn and moms who opt to ride on boogie boards. Surfing Moms are working toward providing surfing instruction. She often loans boards and wetsuits to those who can’t afford to buy or rent equipment.

“I get that some people are scared about getting in the ocean,” she says. “For moms new to it, you learn from other moms.”

Renschler, who considers herself a beginner, learned to surf a couple of years ago when she treated herself to a week-long surfing retreat for her birthday. “I found surfing to be so challenging, yet so informative.”

The Santa Cruz Experience

At the Santa Cruz chapter of Surfing Moms, coordinator Alicia Hunt says they have all levels of surfers in their membership as well. “We have a lot of beginner moms, so I like to pair them up with the more experienced surfers, so they have a buddy,” says Hunt, who has a 3-year-old daughter. 

The chosen surf spot of the day depends on ocean conditions and tide.  Hunt makes sure there’s a good beach for kids to play. At a typical meet-up, there are about six moms with kids varying in age from infants to preschoolers. The children also benefit from the fun and friendship,  the younger kids learn from the older ones.

Hunt, who has been surfing for six years, says the organization has been life changing. After her daughter was born, she felt very isolated. Most of her friends at the time didn’t have kids or experience watching them, so it was difficult to go surfing.

“This group saved my life. Without Surfing Moms, I wouldn’t have been able to get out on the water half as much. Everything is so much about the baby for new moms, but it’s important they see you having fun.”

Growing up in the Midwest, Holly Hoffman, who is secretary of the Surfing Moms board, didn’t really know how to surf before joining in 2021. She was athletic and took one surfing lesson when she moved to Hawaii.

“I played sports all my life, but no sport is quite like surfing in my opinion,” she says.

She was searching for a female group that was sports centered and found the perfect match with Surfing Moms.

“Surfing Moms has helped me feel connected and inspired. The women are phenomenal,” Hoffman says. “They are inclusive, kind and badass mamas.”

For more about Surfing Moms, go to surfingmoms.org.

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