Words Hayley Lawrence

Have you ever considered how our surfing performance goes in waves with our menstrual cycle?

Everyone has good and bad days in the surf. Days when you come out feeling elated and top of your surfing game, and days when you come out feeling like you’ve fluffed every wave and spent more time underwater than on top of it.

But when you’re frustrated or anxious in the surf, or penalising yourself for being a kook, how often do you consider whether it’s related to where you’re at in your menstrual cycle? Like it or not, as females our surfing performance is affected by our hormones. And while for half of the month you’re feeling gung-ho and sliding and gliding on every peak that swings your way, when your oestrogen levels crash you can find yourself hesitating and wiping out on every wave.

Periods play a huge role in our physical and mental capabilities, and if you learn to work with the ebb and flow of your menstrual cycle, you’ll not only learn to be kinder to yourself when you’re in the surfing doldrums, you’ll also tap into the times when you’re at the peak of your surfing game.

So how does it work?

Our menstrual cycle has four seasons every month – spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Spring and summer mark the oestrogen dominant phases of our our cycle, which brings energy, confidence and positivity that flows into our surfing. But just as you start to feel like you can take on any wave, autumn falls, crashing your oestrogen supplies and increasing progesterone levels. This can cause the emotional wobbles, low mood and strong feelings of not being good enough, that also transfer into your surfing, making you to feel more anxious and hesitant in the sea. Once you move into winter and your period arrives, your energy slumps and your hormone levels are at an all-time low, making you more sluggish and often resulting in more wipeouts… but don’t take it too seriously, because spring is just around the corner and the cycle starts all over again.

How can I manage my cycle and surfing better?

Track your menstrual cycle using an app or journal. Then you can start to measure how your hormones come into play in your surfing – and in other areas of your life. I know that from day 18 of my cycle I start to get anxious, so the waves look bigger and I doubt my capabilities. My energy dips a few days later, causing my pop-up to lag and making me more clumsy in (and out of) the water. To combat this I’ve learnt to recognise when I get frustrated in the surf and take the pressure off by taking a break if the conditions are big or heavy, or paddling out just to play in the sea, with no expectations of catching the best waves, or even battling my way out back.

What can I do to make surfing during my period easier?

Surfing during your period can be challenging – and messy. But don’t avoid surfing before and during your period, as it can really help to balance out your mood swings and keep you feeling positive during your time of the month.

In the week running up to your period your body can be using up to 300 calories more each day, so it’s important to listen to your body if you feel hungry and fuel up for surfing with wholegrain carbs and protein-rich foods. This will keep your cravings at bay, help manage blood sugar levels and maintain keep your energy supplies more buoyant.

When you’re surfing during your period, staying hydrated and increasing sources of omega-3 fats, zinc and iron in your diet can help to alleviate pain and replenish iron supplies depleted from blood loss. If you’ve got a very heavy period try wearing a pair of period bikini pants under your wetsuit and shorten your surf session – and respond to your body’s cues if you’re feeling sluggish and tired.

Learning how your hormones affect you at different times will improve your surfing as you learn to the flow through the peaks and troughs of your cycle.