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Can you still hang-ten while living with an ostomy? Yes, you can! But before you start surfing, you must know this: surfing is one of the most difficult and complex sport in the world. If you think about it, not one wave is the same. It can be a very challenging learning process.
In order to get you in the water and on the board safely, Canada’s online retailer, Inner Good compiled a list of helpful tips for surfing with an ostomy. Consider these five things before you hit the waves!
1. Gym First
Before you hit the water, hit the gym first. It’s important to rebuild your core, which is essential to successful surfing. Core workouts can include using a stability ball, a Bosu ball (inflated rubber hemisphere attached to a rigid platform), cables, and calisthenics. Yoga is also a great option to prepare your body for what’s to come beyond the reef or sand bottom beach break.
2. Start Slow
Even if you surfed regularly before you received a stoma, you’ll want to get accustomed to surfing with an ostomy appliance. Swallow your pride before you swallow saltwater! Get your balance back by trying stand-up-paddling into waves first. This can get you used to the act of riding waves without the cumbersome pop-up portion of the activity. Once you’ve adjusted, you could move on to a soft-top surfboard. A soft-top allows you to paddle in a lay-down position, and can help with getting used to pressure put on the ostomy pouch until it becomes habitual. When comfortable, you’re ready to graduate to a more traditional (fiberglass) board.
Note: Beginner and casual surfers are advised to take lessons. Be sure to let your instructor know about your ostomy.
3. Protect Your Stoma
Regardless of your new found comfort on a surfboard, you need to protect your ostomy pouch system. A form-fitting support belt or stoma guard will help keep it from shifting. If you’re surfing in a cooler climate, you also gain a protective guard by default – a wetsuit. If riding waves in the balmy waters of the tropics, you might still want to wear a spring suit (a wetsuit with short-cut arms and legs) until you’re comfortable. Also apply a liquid skin barrier which is a clear film that forms a breathable barrier to protect the skin surrounding your stoma from waste.
4. Ocean Quality Warnings – Know Before You Go
You have a new opening in your body. It doesn’t matter how well you secure your ostomy pouch system, you’re likely more susceptible to bacteria than someone without an ostomy. Unfortunately, we live in a world where ocean pollutants are a common problem, especially along the populated coastlines. Activity and friction (that can occur when surfing) can potentially cause tiny lesions in the skin (another call for a liquid skin barrier). Those lesions are potential gateways to micro-organisms commonly found in polluted seawater. Infection can occur. You don’t want that anywhere near your digestive system.
5. Seek Inspiration From Others
This is one spot where “locals only” doesn’t apply. While the ostomy surfing community may be a small one, they’re open to sharing their stories with experiences that will serve as inspiration for yours. High-profile competitive surfers such as Oli Adams and Brittani Nicholl have been open about living with an ostomy, with Brittani serving as an official ambassador for Crohn’s and Colitis Australia.
If you’d like to connect with others who want to get out there and surf, there are numerous online forums where surfing with a stoma is discussed. And if you can’t find one that fits your vibe, consider starting your own Reddit dedicated to surfing with an ostomy. By seeking inspiration on your own, you may end up inspiring others.
Inner Good is devoted to providing ostomates access to products, resources and information that allows them to live life on their terms.