Credit: Yann Bervas/Unsplash
A few years ago, a girl texted me on Instagram. She was in a surf class I had assisted in the south of France last summer. She started by saying it might be awkward and asked what I do when I have my period as a surf instructor or while surfing. She just got hers and had swimming lessons coming up. Before this, I never consciously thought about this topic, nor could I remember talking about periods and surfing with other people with periods. It was something I figured out through trial and error and doing it as discreetly as possible.
The girls’ question wasn’t awkward at all. We got to talk about periods and surfing. Sharing knowledge and stories so that people with periods can feel comfortable in the water and on the beach. This question was a drop of oil in the fire that started this magazine. So here we are, talking about it.
The surf habitat
Surfing and surf instructing are something you mostly do at a secluded beach, far off from sanitary facilities. There are beaches in the city and sometimes toilets next to the beach. But from experience it’s rare! People with penises mostly just turn in a direction to pee and that’s it. But with a vagina that’s a bit more difficult.
Because surf lessons and surfing is dominated by men, it’s not a pleasant topic to talk about in most cases. Especially because male surf instructors probably don’t have the advice you need. If they do, great. Surf camps, surf schools, and the surf community could put up small notices in women’s restrooms with information. It would be nice if there was space to address the topic of periods and surfing and find a solution.
In Moliets for example where I was working there is no toilet within walking an hour back and forth. And even if you would take that exhausting walk over a long stretch of sand work times wouldn’t allow it. So yeah there is walking up the beach for a while where nobody is to somehow change your period products. Or hoping that the amount of blood won’t be too much until you get back home or in this case to the campground. Also letting go of any shameful thoughts is relieving, if blood leaks so what! It happens, it’s natural, hygienic and human.
Surf Instructing and surfing during the period
What works for me doesn’t work for everyone and doesn’t have to. Regardless what kind of period product you will use for surfing or swimming very likely no blood will touch the water. First of all the pressure in water keeps blood from leaking. Second, even if a small amount comes into the water it will dilute immediately.
Since I started surfing and surf teaching, I use a menstrual cup. No water gets in it, it usually lasts for 12 hours at the beach and is very comfortable. It’s a silicone cup that you wear in your vagina and it lasts longer than a tampon. You just empty it in the sink or toilet and you can reuse it. So it’s also environmentally friendly. When I have to change my period products at the beach, I take the waste with me to dispose of it safely. This is also the information I shared with the girl who asked.
Another good period product for surfing and swimming is tampons. They can be worn for about four to eight hours. So if you spend all day in and around the water, you’ll need to change them at least once or twice. Make sure you take a few tampons to the beach with you. If there is a restroom nearby, you can easily change them, if not, you should take a small bag with you to put the waste in when changing it in nature.
So surfing during your period is possible and tampons or a period cup might work for you too. Make sure you also take care of your body by hydrating it with water as during the period it works over time.
This is just the beginning. There are more options for sure and I will ask around. While researching, I also found some shocking and ridiculous stories about periods and surfing. Stay tuned!