From Chaos To Calm: How Surfing Saved My Spirit Amidst Motherhood

My marriage was falling apart, I decided I needed time to think and some space (because let's face it, you can’t even pee alone as a Mum), so I did something selfish for once (or so it felt like it) and I booked myself a break in Cornwall, I left my husband with the kids for the first time in 6 years, packed my running shoes and a book to keep me company then set off to a cosy little cottage. 

I’d have time to rest, time to think… and time to… well… just time!  

I’d been a military spouse for 6 years, lived through various deployments; my life had been dedicated to my husband, his career, the children and running a business. But I no longer had a life outside of my family bubble; I’m aware this is common for families of all walks of life and not exclusive to the military. On the outside I was living a happy life but internally I struggled with the narrative “is this all life has to offer?”  

I loved my family but personally I was lacking joy, fun… and the feeling of living wholeheartedly.  

Sat outside the beach cafe at Widemouth in December, I watched the surfers for what felt like hours! I was mesmerised, it was bloody freezing, and these mad heads were in the water surfing, but they looked like they were having so much fun!  As they arrived back to the carpark, soaking wet and I expect very cold they looked happy, calm and connected to each other. All of which were things my life was lacking. 

 I’ve always been drawn to the water and in that moment, I knew I needed to try surfing… one day. 

That one day came 5 months later, having separated from my husband I needed something to occupy my free time when I was without the kids. I wanted to heal in a healthy way, not party like a rockstar to forget the hard time I was going through… I did that in my 20s and it was no good for my mental health. Instead, I threw myself into activities and building connections so booked my first surf lesson. 

Sometime in May, riddled with anxiety I took my first surf lesson at Adventure Bay Surf School based at Tregonhawke Beach, Cornwall. It was a small group lesson with hand on guidance, safety instructions and started with the basics. It’s a good job as I didn’t have a clue, I’d never even carried a surfboard let alone been on one. I caught the first (tiny) wave and managed to stand, fluke maybe, but at that moment I knew it was for me. I entered the water thinking I was a reasonably fit 34-year-old, but the sea very quickly humbled me, it was so physically challenging and after my first session I was so fatigued I could barely function. But LOVED IT! 

The thing that made me fall in love with surfing was its ability to silence my mind. My life was in chaos, but I thought of nothing other than the next wave while in the water. I’d never felt that level of tranquillity in a world that revolved around being busy and feeling rushed.  

This was the change in my life that needed to happen. 

I continued to surf with a ladies group and my love for surfing grew, as did my connection to the most incredible women. Some of them were also mums, trying to find the elusive balance in life. We supported each other and used surfing to escape from life for a while, but in turn it made us happier, calmer and more tolerable parents. 

As winter approached the surf club ended for the season and that’s when I bought my first board from Tiki, I went for a 7’2 Kore fun board which was an upgrade from the foamie I’d been learning on. The girls and I spent the winter travelling around Devon and Cornwall in search of the best smaller waves, ensuring we all stayed safe and looked out for each other. Fast forward a year and a half and I applied for a job at Tiki Surf, now I am lucky to do a job I enjoy surrounded by the thing I love most, besides my children, obviously they’re still my main love and priority. 

As mums we often put ourselves last, our interests or hobbies get forgotten about. It’s all too easy to allow anxieties to build to prevent us from trying something new. But each time we push outside of that comfort zone, it gets a little bigger. You grow a little more. Mums, you are important, it is not selfish to take that time for yourself, especially if you parent better after it.  

You are never too old, it’s never too late.  Life shouldn’t stop when you become a Mum, nor does it stop at 30, 40 or 50. You probably won’t end up the next pro surfer and make a career of it, but I can guarantee that you’ll have heaps of fun, make some amazing connections and you’ll experience the feeling of peace and calm. 

Surfing helped me to become the mum I aspired to be, the one who is living wholeheartedly, for myself and for my children.

Karen Darke- World Para-Surfing Champs 2023: Crossing The Veil of Fear Reading From Chaos To Calm: How Surfing Saved My Spirit Amidst Motherhood 1 minute
Finding solace in the surf, a mother's journey to rediscovering herself amidst life's chaos and challenges.