It’s a chance for caretakers to take care of themselves, rejuvenate in the salty sea and enjoy the thrill of riding waves.
Show up on the sand on any given Sunday in Redondo Beach and you might come across a group of moms catching waves, joined by others there to help through weekly “surf swaps.”
Surfing Moms, a nonprofit spawned in Australia and then adopted in Hawaii, has ridden a wave into the South Bay, with satellite surf groups popping up from San Francisco and Santa Cruz to south in San Diego. There are also plans to expand into Orange County by summer.
The idea is simple: You show up and catch a few waves while another mom watches your kid, then you swap out, babysitting on the sand while that mom surfs.
Anna Shoemaker, vice president of the Surfing Moms nonprofit and a Palos Verdes Peninsula native, was home visiting family here over the holiday from Oahu, where she lives now and runs the regular meet-up group in Kailua.
The mom of two, now 5 and 7, connected with founder Elizabeth Madin, a marine biologist and mother of three who had created the group in Hawaii in 2018. That group was based on a similar program already established in Australia, where she lived for many years.
Shoemaker found the group after searching for like-minded people in Hawaii.
She tried the stroller and church groups, but most were geared toward playtime for her child instead of helping her own mental state, something she needed after grappling with postpartum depression.
Then, she googled “surfing moms groups” in 2018 and found the newly formed nonprofit just as they were gearing up for their first gathering in Honolulu.
It took a few meet ups, Shoemaker said, before she felt comfortable paddling out and leaving her kids on the beach with others she had just met.
But for Shoemaker, it was more than just catching a few waves.
“It’s an opportunity to let your kids play and expose them to this joy we all share, the ocean,” said Shoemaker, who learned to surf when she was 12. “Every mom and child is different.”
And while every mom is different, she said, they are all on a similar journey.
“We’re all in it together,” she said.
At the Kailua chapter on Oahu, there’s two moms of high schoolers who show up without their kids, just to help and learn how to surf.
“I think it’s personal for each mom who comes,” she said. “For me personally, it felt lifesaving at the time. We all get together with the basic understanding that we all need a break.”
Sometimes, Shoemaker brings her husband along to the group meetings and they get a rare “surf date” while someone else watches their kids.
The group released a documentary last year, shot by Shoemaker’s longtime friend Candace Stalder, who then joined to help as the South Bay organizer; Stalder also head’s the groups social media outreach.
While the pandemic slowed the group’s momentum — with beaches shut down in 2020 — the meet ups are running again, with Redondo Beach’s chapter launching last September.
Stalder liked what the group stood for – bringing together a community of people who were willing to help one another.
“I recognize what Surfing Moms is and what it provides,” said Stalder, who grew up in Hermosa Beach and started surfing at age 9. “It’s geared toward moms that need to get back in the water, need to take care of themselves.”
She has a saying – you can’t pour from an empty cup.
“Surfing Moms lets you fill up that cup for whatever you need, for that week or day,” she said.
She took a break from surfing in her 20s during a tough time in her own life, later finding a surfing community at Torrance Beach that “helped bring me back to life.”
“Surfers tend to have similar mentalities, we all look out for each other,” Stalder said. “It’s lifesaving. A lot of these women are needing that. They have been looking for this opportunity or need to take care of themselves, to get back into something they love.”
It’s something they can look forward to during the week.
“Things are hard, but I know on Sunday I’ll catch waves or just get out of the house.
She recalled one mom who ended up just talking to her on the sand for a half hour.
“I’m sorry, I haven’t talked to another adult other than my partner in a very long time,” the woman said apologetically.
And that was just fine by Stalder. The whole point is to have a safe space for moms or caretakers, whatever their needs may be, she said.
It could mean being in the water for five minutes or just sitting on the beach to meditate for 20 minutes, she said.
The group is also not just moms, Stalder said. A good friend, a single father, recently told her he wished there was a dad’s group and she urged him to join Surfing Moms.
“We are all inclusive,” Stalder said. “We don’t care about your gender, sexual orientation — everyone who is a caregiver who needs this or would benefit from it.”
While anyone who is curious can come check out the group, there’s a monthly membership to join the surf swap, with an annual fee of $52 to cover insurance and liability. Information: surfingmoms.org
Source: Orange County Register