Pregnant surfer walking with surf board

Surfing During Pregnancy With Ashley Johnson of Aloha Exchange

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surfer riding wave during pregnancy


{All photos by Bryce Johnson}

Surfing during pregnancy

Any surfer who hopes to give birth one day or who has thought about getting pregnant has surely wondered whether they'll have to relegate their boards to the rack for the nine months or so leading up to the arrival of their bundle of joy.

Is it dangerous? Is it comfortable? Can you even lay on your belly?

If you've been pregnant in the last several years or have ever wondered at all about surfing during pregnancy you may have stumbled upon this blog post we made in 2014.  Seea founder Amanda Chinchelli, who was pregnant at the time with her daughter Annabel, joined a couple of other expecting mama friends to share their experiences surfing while pregnant.

While every pregnancy is unique and the decision to surf, or not to surf, is a personal one, we think it's helpful to hear and learn from others, and know that being pregnant doesn't necessarily mean you have to give up doing something that brings you happiness.

So, we're excited to share with you another personal account of surfing through pregnancy.  Seea Marketing Director, Stephanie Villano, caught up with mama-to-be, Ashley Johnson - beautiful Kauai based Seea friend and co-owner of Aloha Exchange, one of our retailers, to discuss how she's been feeling surfing throughout her pregnancy so far.  

First off - congrats!  Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Aloha Everyone! I’m Ashley Johnson, born and raised on the beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii, which is also where I currently live. Most of my days are spent hanging out with my husband Bryce, my dog Sammie (she’s a mini Red Merle Australian Shepherd), drinking coffee in the mornings, hanging with friends, family and ending our days watching the sunset. For work, I’m a part owner of a surf camp, skate shop called Aloha Exchange. I’m in charge of everything on our women’s side of things, from designing our logowear and women’s buying. We’ve actually been carrying the Seea brand now since about 2013 and it's one of our shop favorites!

How far along are you and when are you due?

As of today, I’m 28 weeks pregnant and due on April 14, 2023

Did you intuitively feel that you would be able to surf during your pregnancy or did you first discuss this with your Doctor first?

I always knew I wanted try and surf as long as possible while being pregnant. What I didn’t realize was how challenging it would be so early on into my pregnancy! You feel the changes within your body pretty quickly…I was only a few weeks in and I could already feel the differences - like my stomach muscles stretching and the chest pain – now that’s no joke, haha! I had a Doctor not recommend surfing – but I decided to trust my own intuition and make the decision for myself for when I felt it was time to stop.

What were some concerns, if any, that you had?

As I’ve gone through this season, I think the main thing I keep telling myself is to not push it too hard. You do question yourself a lot…like is this safe? Is my baby ok? Am I ok?…but overall the best advice given to me is just to do what you feel comfortable with. Listen to your body and just be ok with slowing down and not over doing it. You find little joys and victories in the small things all over again!

What type of waves and boards do you normally enjoy when you aren’t pregnant?

I definitely like “fun” size waves and enjoy point breaks. Probably because my preference is to ride single fin longboards, but depending on the wave or size of the swell - I do enjoy switching it up and riding something smaller like either a twin fin or fun mid length.

How does it differ from the way you enjoy surfing now? What boards are you gravitating towards?

Now days, I pretty much can only ride a longboard. Just the other week I took out my standard 9’2 and it was so hard to even knee paddle. So recently I took out my husband’s 9’8 and that felt so much better. Anything to help with getting into waves since I can’t really be on my stomach that much when I paddle.

Surfing during pregnancy

How has the way you surfed change throughout your pregnancy?

You just figure it out with every session and stage of your pregnancy. I feel like progressively things getting a little more difficult the bigger your belly grows, but you just figure out how to make it work for you. For me, that looked like changing up boards, adjusting how I paddle, and learning to take it easy and not overdo it physically.

Can you still lay on your belly? 

I can’t really right now. I did manage to be able to catch a wave lying down the other day – but the hard part with having a belly is that you have a belly, haha! So you have to over compensate in other areas to make room for your bump. Basically I put a lot of pressure on my chest and knees to create a space to paddle into the waves. Its super uncomfortable and hard, but I just did it anyway cause knee paddling is so much slower, haha!

Do you think you’ll surf throughout your entire pregnancy or do you think you will stop at some point?

I think I will stop at some point. I haven’t had one of those moments yet of feeling like I need to stop, but I might be getting close to that time, we’ll see!

Favorite part about surfing during your pregnancy?

I feel like with every session you get out, you’re just stoked. You’re happy to be in the ocean, happy still be doing what you love and sharing that experience with the new little human growing inside of you.

Most challenging aspect?

Probably the hardest part is when your belly starts growing. You have to adjust how you paddle into waves and have to get use to the feeling of having that pressure on your stomach. Besides that, I also think finding a balance of not pushing yourself too much.

What advice would you give to other women who want to surf during their pregnancy? 

Listen to your body and just surf as long as you feel comfortable. Every woman’s experience seems to be different – so embrace your journey, be safe, and enjoy all the phases. I have a new found respect for all women who surf pregnant at any stage! It’s very challenging, but it is also rewarding with every wave you catch.

surf suit for pregnant woman
harper surf suit for maternity (pregnancy)
swamis surf suit for maternity (pregnancy)
Bolina surf suit for maternity (pregnancy)
surf suits for surfing during maternity (pregnancy)




Curious for more?

Expecting mama friends Margaret Yao Calvani, general manager of Bing & Jacobs Surfboards, active surfer Arianne Bettazzi, and Seea founder Amanda Chinchelli shared their personal experiences of surfing while pregnant - dive into our best-ever read on the topic of surfing while pregnant!

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