To a non-surfer, it seems hard enough to hold your balance on a surfboard on your own two feet. Now imagine adding a baby bump.
That's exactly what mom and surfer Kristi Olivares did, four days a week, through all nine months of her pregnancy. She filmed her experience, too, in a video that she posted to YouTube earlier this month.
Olivares, who is from Vancouver, B.C., but now lives in Sydney, has been surfing for four years, and she wanted to share her love of the ocean with her not-yet-born baby. Here's how she described a typical pregnant surfing session to the website shesurfs.com: “I wait for a wave with my hand on my belly and know that my growing baby can feel the magic, too.” (This, by the way, was at 30 weeks!)
She says that she was able to gradually adjust to the changes in her body and her new center of balance.
"I felt like I had to learn to catch waves all over again," Olivares said in an email to TODAY.com.
Olivares did have a set of surfing-while-pregnant rules for herself: She tried to only surf in waves that were waist high or smaller. And she enlisted her husband or a friend to help her carry her board to the beach – or, if no one was available, she’d carry the board to the shore by balancing it on her head, which, she says, distributed its weight more evenly.
She says she got a “strong reaction” from some people who were quick to give her the “Isn’t that dangerous?" speech, usually from those who weren't familiar with surfing. But she explained to them that she adjusted her surfing style to fit her changing body, and she argued that surfing keeps her fit, and acts as a stress-reliever.
Her doctor, who is a surfer himself, approved her decision to keep surfing, providing that she did it sensibly and carefully, Olivares says. Dr. Raul Artal, chair of the department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health at Saint Louis University, says he agrees with her doctor's recommendations, but adds that she should also make sure to use sunscreen liberally, wear warm enough clothing and hydrate adequately, because hyperthermia, hypothermia and dehydration could trigger preterm labor. (Under U.S. guidelines, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that a healthy pregnant woman may continue an exercise program she did before she became pregnant.)
Olivares gave birth to her water baby, Alexander Bobby, on Sept. 10, and she says Baby Al has been to the beach almost every day since he was 5 days old. She says that her little boy is always a relaxed, happy baby, but that's especially true at the beach.
"I believe that he recognizes the sound of the crashing waves and the motion of walking on the sand from when he was in my belly," she said. "I always got such a sense of calm and happiness from him when he was in my womb and I was out surfing, I could almost picture him smiling as we sailed along the water. He is a true ocean baby!"