Growing up in Southern California, I always loved the Body Glove ads of Holly Beck absolutely shredding around the world. It was great to see a So Cal girl who loved surfing as much as I do. Today, Holly is Holly Beck-Obermeyer and the mother of two beautiful little Surf Stoked Groms. Her Instagram account @salt_water_mama follows her as flourishes as at creating a life in Nicaragua and Costa Rica running surf and yoga retreats at Surf with Amigas. From what I’ve read about Holly, she sets a goal and smashes it: from starting to surf when her mother discouraged her, then getting on the Pro Tour for 7 years to building a sustainable life in Central America. Holly’s story is an inspiration to all those Mamas who are working hard to achieve their dreams and keep surfing! I am beyond stoked to share this interview with you guys and grateful to Holly for her words!
1. Holly, even though I have been a big fan of yours since I was younger, can you tell the Surf Stoked Moms a little about your surfing life before you became a mom?
I learned to surf when I was 14 years old growing up in a small coastal suburb of Los Angeles called Palos Verdes. It has some really high quality waves when there are big swells, but otherwise it’s just average beach break. I picked it up quickly though, started competing right away on my high school surf team, then moved to bigger and bigger amateur competitions, won an amateur national title in 2001 the same year I graduated college, and then turned pro. I spent the next 8 years traveling the world competing as a pro surfer. Eventually the non-stop travel and competitive lifestyle started to get old and I quit the contest scene, extending the pro surfer life a few more years just traveling for video and photo shoots. Along the way I had first visited Nicaragua in 2006 on a free surf trip and totally fell in love. In 2009 I moved to Nicaragua full time and by 2010 I had met the man who would become my husband, and quit all professional surf obligations in order to start my own business to sustain myself living out my next dream of life in Central America.
2. Now, let’s talk about MOMLIFE… How was becoming a mother changed your relationship with surfing and the ocean?
The most obvious change is that I don’t have nearly as much time to surf. As a pro surfer my entire life revolved around chasing waves. I could jump on a plane at a moment’s notice and fly around the world for a photo trip and just surf surf surf all day long. I was responsible for no one except myself. Once moving to Nicaragua, the pace slowed down, but my day still revolved around spending a lot of time in the water. I’d surf pretty much every day even if the conditions weren’t that great.
Of course having a baby ended that! And with two, it’s even harder. I now surf an hour a day if i’m lucky, and definitely not everyday. My standards for surf have gone way up. If it’s not really good, i’d rather be hanging on the beach with my kids.
3. Do you have any tips for new moms who want to start or resume surfing after having a baby?
For me a big thing was fitness. After having my second especially, it took a long time to get my core strength back (i’m almost 5 months post partum and still working on it). I had them 2 years apart and my son (my second) was a really big baby so I had diastasis recti – a surprisingly uncommonly talked about but very common situation where your ab muscles separate to accommodate the baby. I had never even heard about it until my midwife diagnosed me about 5 days after giving birth, but i’m so glad that she did as it takes a lot of specific work and in some cases even surgery to fix. In my case, it wasn’t that bad, but it was something I had to address before getting back in the water. If you don’t heal it, any core work (like popping up on a surfboard) will actually make it worse and could lead to a hernia. So that slowed me down.
The other thing is to keep your priorities straight. Every mom will tell you that the little ones grow up way too fast. Even though I’m still a passionate surfer and want to be out there as much as possible and still get bummed out if the waves are good and I’m missing them because of the kids, I just remind myself that they are only young and needy for such a short time, but I still have the rest of my life to be a surfer.
4. At Surf Stoked Moms, we talk a lot about keeping our wild side as women and mothers… How do you balance your responsibilities with your passion for surfing?
I get up really early!!!Ha, ha. But that’s more to get work done than to be wild. Running my own business means a lot of computer work. I typically go to bed at the same time as my kids – around 7pm, and then get up at 3:45am so I’m drinking coffee and working by 4am. I’m tired in the evenings and work best in the morning, so even though it might sound crazy, that schedule works for me. I can get two hours of work done, then if im not planning to surf i’ll go for a quick run and be back by 6:30am or so to get into mom mode for the day. Luckily living in Central America means help is really affordable. I have two great nannies that help me out so that my husband and I can surf. That makes all the difference, but I still try to spend as much time with my kids myself as possible. I never have the nannies more than 2-3 hours per day. I’m sure as the kiddos get older I’ll have more time to be wild!
5. A lot of our moms dream of traveling more or even living abroad… What is it like bringing up two little ones in a foreign country?
We love living in Central America. We split our time between North Nicaragua and Southern Costa Rica, having houses in both places. I just love the lifestyle of being barefoot, running around on the beach with the dogs, and playing in the ocean together. It’s a lot more affordable to live down here so I can spend a lot of time with my kids without having to be gone at work all day. With my job I can also have my kids with me while I work. My husband works doing construction management so he’s around a lot of the day as well. If we lived in Los Angeles still we’d both have to have “real jobs” and be apart from our kids into order to afford the things we want.
There are downsides too of course. While the areas are growing and there are other young families around, there aren’t nearly as many options for things like play groups, or parks, or different things to do for the kids. Luckily we have the beach and we live in a super small development that only has a couple of houses so far, so there isn’t a busy street out front that I have to worry about. We enjoy the simple things. It’s a trade off.
Everyone asks what we’ll do about school. My daughter is only 2 and my son is almost 5 months, so we have a few more years before we have to think seriously about that. My plan is to do a home-school coop with a couple of the other parents in the area and bring in a teacher that can teach a home-school curriculum so the burden isn’t only on the parents, but we’ll see what happens.
6. Do you think Nicaragua is a good destination for families with young children? Why?
I think Nicaragua is a great destination for kids. It’s really safe and affordable still. If you like the beach and want to expose your kids to a simpler lifestyle, this is a great place!
7. Tell us about Surf with Amigas…
Surf with Amigas is a surf yoga adventure retreat open to ladies of all ages and of all surfing experience levels. Whether you want to catch your very first wave or work on refining complex maneuvers, you can come and be inspired by a group of supportive women from all over the world. We have really high level coaching including 1:1 video coaching to go over the footage from the morning session that surfers of all levels can really benefit from. There’s also daily restorative yoga sessions, super fun non-surfing activities like horseback riding on the beach, volcano boarding, and some volunteering opportunities. We have multiple locations throughout Central America – Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
When I was traveling as a pro surfer, one of my favorite parts of that lifestyle was surfing and adventuring with other women. So with Surf With Amigas, I can keep that feeling alive and share it with others.
8. How can a mom (or anyone else) benefit from a week at Surf with Amigas?
Aside from greatly improving your surfing, it’s a week to relax, disconnect from the real world while reconnecting to yourself. It’s a great way to take a break, evaluate where you are in your life, where you want to be, and set and achieve goals whether just in surfing or in life.
Take a break from being a mom to reconnect to yourself, or bring the family with you! We host mother/daughter, couples, and even whole family retreats that include nannies to look after the kids so mom and dad can surf!
Check out Holly’s Camps at Surf with Amigas!