38 weeks pregnant, still surfing daily, the inspiring story of local surfer and gynecologist Renata Elizalde
I met Renata at my local surf spot a few weeks ago. I saw this beautiful lady out there, ripping on a shortboard… with the biggest pregnant belly I have ever seen in the surf!!!
I was instantly fascinated by her character and her story. Without even knowing her I was ‘yewing’ at every wave she would catch on her shortboard, ripping the face of the wave and spraying water at every roller she’d do… with her (really) big mama belly.
I was amazed and felt compelled to know more about her story.
What’s your name and how old are you?
Catalina Renata Elizalde Martinez-Peñuela – yes, they love the long names in Spain! - everyone calls me Renata; I’m 29 years old, turning 30 in a few weeks.
Where are you from and where do you live?
I’m from Pamplona in the North of Spain, it’s part of the Basque region, I live there but I have been coming here to our family holiday house in St Jean de Luz every summer since I was 3-years-old.
What do you do for living?
I’m a gynecologist at the 'Hospital of Navarra' in Pamplona.
How did you start surfing and how long have you been surfing for?
I started surfing when I was about 10 because my older brother started surfing and I always wanted to do what my older brother did. A friend gave me a board at the time and that’s how I started.
Did you surf during your whole pregnancy? How often?
Yes I did! The whole time, every time there were waves.
Every time I’d walk out of our holiday house my mum would tell me “don’t risk it”. She kept trying to reason with me.
Did you ever feel like you should stop?
No, because nothing ever happened to me. I was never frightened while surfing so I kept on doing it. Gynecologists recommend swimming towards the end of your pregnancy to keep the blood circulating in the ankles. I guess surfing was my kind of swimming. I feel better while in the ocean than walking anyway.
How does it feel to surf with such a big weight in your belly, how do you manage to keep paddling on your board?
When you first get out, paddling feels a bit weird on the belly, but once you’re out for about 5 minutes that feeling disappears. I think the organs readjust or something and then it doesn’t bother you at all. I also push the board a bit deeper with my knee to submerge the board a bit and level it up with my belly so I can distribute the weight better.
How did you manage to readjust your balance over the months?
Keeping my balance while surfing was easy because I have been surfing all summer (almost every day) and I think I keep adapting to the constant increase of weight.
What’s the secret to being able to continue surfing the whole way until the term of your pregnancy?
The secret is: don’t listen to your parents or to the people that tell you not to go out!
...and that the people around you in the surf watch out for you a little.
If you are in good shape and health, there is no problem for you to keep doing what you were doing before being pregnant.
What’s your advice to any other women (like myself) who dream about being able to do the same?
If you love surfing, you can still do it during your pregnancy, of course you cannot start surfing whilst pregnant, but if you know what you’re doing you can do it. My advice is to continue doing what you were doing before you were pregnant. As long as you feel that you can do it, you can do everything.
The main issue today is that there is a lot of paranoia with pregnancy because women in general have babies a little older than in the past, which means increased risk. Back in the day, women would work in fields their whole pregnancy!
Do you think surfing that late in pregnancy is safe for the baby?
There is no doubt that even if you feel safe doing it, the risk comes from the surfers around you. But if you fall off your board in the water there is no risk and if you know how to surf you won’t hit yourself with the board either - we’re talking shortboard here -.
You just have to go when the waves aren’t too big.
- FYI I have seen Renata in the water in 3-5 foot waves a few times! -
Did many people hassle you about it being dangerous when seeing you in the water?
In the surf no one ever told me anything - they cheer for me if anything. But some people that don’t surf did tell me “you are crazy!”.
I have to say I didn’t really tell my gynecologist that I keep surfing, I told her in the beginning but I don’t think she believes it.
I’ll show her some photos next time I see her… Or maybe even after I give birth!
Do you think most women could surf so late in their pregnancy?
Most women are overly cautious about their pregnancy, even more so if they have already had a miscarriage (which is the case of every second woman) and they don’t want to do anything. It also depends on how old you are when pregnant. You may have to be more cautious after the age of 35. But if you stay active and if you feel good you can do anything.
How would you know if you can continue surfing when pregnant?
Get out there and if you feel good you can keep doing it.
The type of waves you surf is also very important. I feel better surfing a point break - the one I see Renata out everyday - where I don’t have to duck dive too much and can just sit waiting for waves.
And when a bigger set does come I leave my board behind and dive underwater, that’s all!
Anything else you want to tell us about yourself?
Jaime, (Renata’s boyfriend): She was the second world champion of “Pala”, a type of Basque Pelota, in 2009 and won the Regional Championship of “Frontenis” (another type of Basque Pelota) this year, when she was 13 weeks pregnant!
Renata: I stopped playing Pala after a while because I felt it was more dangerous if I got hit by a ball or a racket than if I fell off in the water while surfing.
In the end if you love doing sport, you will do it during your pregnancy too.
Stay tuned for more images of Renata in our future video to be released by @wearbird so you can see her in motion.
We will make sure to be following this baby surfer’s steps as he grows up. I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew how to swim before knowing how to walk!