MEET: Polly Ralda The Woman Who Charged Big Waves Through Pregnancy

Matt Rode

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Updated 36d ago

If you are anywhere between your mid-20s and late 30s, you might have noticed that having babies is a pretty popular thing to do. It seems like just about everyone is starting families, and many people seem to think that once a woman gets pregnant, her surfing habit has to be given up for awhile—if not for the next 10 years, then at least for the next 10 months.

But as it turns out, having (and carrying) babies doesn’t have to be the end of your surfing career. Parents can take turns watching the kids while each other surfs, and pregnancy doesn’t have to get in the way of catching a few waves, either. Don’t believe us? Just ask North Shore resident and big wave boss Polly Ralda, who spent the better part of the past year pregnant, but didn’t let that get in the way of her charging.

Spot guide: Hawaii

Polly charging Sunset at 8 months pregnant.

Polly charging Sunset at 8 months pregnant.

© 2020 - Nick Bartol.

Hey Polly, congratulations on the birth of your beautiful, new grom! I know you were pregnant most of 2019, but it doesn’t seem like you missed many sessions. How long before the birth of your child did you stop surfing?
I surfed until the very end of my pregnancy. The last time I surfed was one week before I had my baby! When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I was not going to stop surfing. I wanted to keep paddling out as long as my belly allowed me to do so. 

During the first three months, when most women suffer from morning sickness, I noticed that every time I went surfing, swimming, or even floating, my nausea would disappear and I’d feel extremely good. So every time I felt nauseous, I’d head to the ocean. I would spend long mornings surfing, and that would make my appetite stronger, and I could eat without feeling nauseous. The only hard part for me was deciding when to stop surfing big waves in order to be cautious
 
During my second trimester, I asked my doctor if it was okay for me to keep surfing, because I was planning to go to Puerto Escondido for the summer. He said I could surf as long as my belly let me, so I did—right until the very end! 

Because I was surfing so much—almost as much as before I got pregnant—I didn't gain much weight, so my belly was relatively small and that really helped. And the last month and a half of my pregnancy I just longboarded and surfed mellow waves at Chuns, rather than Sunset, Waimea, and Puerto Escondido. 

I surfed for the last time one week before I gave birth. Actually, it was pretty funny, because the day I ended up giving birth, I had plans to go surfing one last time at Chuns—but the baby arrived first.

The only hard part for me was deciding when to stop surfing big waves in order to be cautious. At the beginning of month eight was the last time I surfed big swells and stayed in the medium range. 

So you were charging huge swells up until eight months pregnant?!
I surfed Puerto Escondido until I was six months pregnant, and I surfed Sunset Beach on Oahu until eight months. And I even got a small swell at Waimea Bay during my third trimester! Then during the last month, I only longboarded at Chuns, which was super fun and mellow. 

I personally think that when I was pregnant, I was surfing better than I ever have at any other time in my life, because I was super focused and way more careful in my wave selection. Being pregnant was like my super power in the water. Plus, knowing that my baby was riding all those waves with me was amazing. 

Did you do anything in particular to make it easier to surf while pregnant? Knee paddling, change your boards....
I normally surf with thick guns and old-school single fins, so I used my regular boards until the last month, when I switched to riding a longboard. Big boards definitely helped! I only tried a shortboard one time, and I thought I was going to sink. 

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Maybe tomorrow ?

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How long after you gave birth did you start surfing again?
Well, I delivered on January 5 (seven weeks ago), and I was back in the water 15 days after that, because I was feeling great and saw a big swell forecasted for Hawai’i. The first time I surfed after giving birth I went straight to the outer reefs!

Wow! You really don’t let anything slow you down. Glad to hear you are enjoying motherhood and back in the water. We’ll see you in the lineup!
Yeah, hit me up when you get back to Oahu and let’s go charge!