How to surf in sync with your menstrual cycle

By Lily Plume

You know how one day, you can catch every wave you paddle for and leave the water beaming ear to ear… Only to find that the next day’s session feels like a series of never-ending wipeouts? We all have good and bad days in the surf. After all, surfing is unpredictable by nature with so many variables at play. But have you ever thought about the role your menstrual cycle plays in your surfing performance?

Living in a female body is like surfing an endless wave of changing emotions. As our hormones go through their monthly dips and falls, our moods and energies ebb and flow like the tides. These hormonal changes can affect how well we surf from one half of the month to the next. Navigating these inner waves can be frustrating, but there’s a way to make the ride a little smoother… 

By learning to surf in sync with your natural cycle instead of fighting against it, you’ll not only improve your surfing performance, but you’ll also learn to appreciate and embrace your body’s changing abilities throughout the month, bringing deeper self-compassion into your life both in and out of the water. So, here’s how to put it into practice!

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How to surf through the seasons of your cycle

Every month, your menstrual cycle takes you through four seasons (or phases): winter (menstrual), spring (follicular), summer (ovulation) and autumn (luteal). Each phase brings different energy levels and physical capabilities; 60% of the W+W community notice a difference in their surfing at different stages of their cycle.

Before we get into the seasons, it’s important to note that everyone’s cycle is unique; we all experience different cycle lengths, symptoms and hormonal fluctuations. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, using these seasons as a rough guide can help you to understand the basics of what’s going on in your body at certain times of the month.

Then, once you start to track your cycle (with an app or journal), you can get to know your own patterns and surf in a way that suits your unique body. 

So, onto the seasons!

Winter – Menstrual Phase

At the start of your cycle, oestrogen and progesterone levels crash, bringing your energy and mood down. This is a time to take it easy! Getting in the ocean might be the last thing you want to do, but some women find that surfing actually helps to alleviate cramps and balance mood swings. As always, listen to your body. If you don’t have the strength to catch every wave, know you’re not alone–64% of the W+W community said they feel weaker when surfing during their period. So take the pressure off and simply enjoy being in the ocean, even if it’s just to float around! 

Spring – Follicular Phase

As you emerge from your inner winter, the world starts to look brighter again. Rising oestrogen levels bring a boost in energy, motivation and positivity. And since oestrogen increases your ability to activate your muscles, it’s a good time to add in some light surf training to your workout regime. Try not to overdo it though, as your body might still be recovering from the decrease in iron levels after your period.

Summer – Ovulation Phase

You’ll know you’re ovulating when you find yourself turbo-paddling out to the lineup and dropping into the biggest set waves! Oestrogen levels are at their peak, bringing your confidence up to an all-time high. Wipeouts won’t seem that big of a deal (you might even enjoy them!) and you’ll feel like you can take on any wave that comes your way. Now’s the time to challenge yourself and embrace playfulness, like experimenting with different boards or venturing to new surf spots.

Autumn – Luteal Phase

Ever had a full-blown meltdown at a missed wave? Chances are, you were in your luteal phase. Oestrogen levels start to drop off and progesterone spikes, causing low energy and mood swings. Fear and anxiety are also common in this phase, so even chest-high waves can seem like they’re double overhead, causing you to feel more hesitant taking waves. Some women find it’s impossible to balance, whilst others feel the cold more easily. Again, listen to your body’s needs! Even paddling out can feel like a mission at this phase, so keep your sessions short and sweet to avoid over-exhausting yourself. 

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Remember that no season lasts forever, so if you find yourself in a PMS-induced surf slump don’t worry–you’ll be back to your inner spring soon enough!

So the next time you get frustrated about not surfing your best, check in with where you’re at in your cycle and see if you can adopt a kinder, softer approach that allows space for all the ups, downs and everything in between. Hopefully, this will help you to find more joy in surfing the waves of your inner ocean and beyond!

If you’d like to surf with like-minded women, jump aboard one of our coaching weekends, retreats or international camps.

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