One of five sisters, Ebbi's confidence and positive outlook comes from being held up, supported and loved by her literal sisterhood. From a place of feeling so valued, Ebbi's now able to pass on her positivity to other women helping them find a love for surfing through the Gower Women's Surf Society.
In the next instalment of our Love Flows Body Stories, Ebbi talks about the importance of family, rediscovering yourself after having a baby and how feeling capable in your body makes your feel kick-ass.
You're standing on a beach in your swimwear on a nice hot day. How do you feel about yourself and your body in that moment?
It depends on what swimsuit I’m wearing. So, if I'm wearing a swimsuit that I know I look good in, it’s a great suit, it compliments my shape and I love the colour or pattern then I’ll feel confident and content. I’ll feel happy to move and play with my son and do life in that swimsuit. But if it's one that I don't feel great in, you know, when you’re scraping the barrel of your summer bikinis, then I would be wearing T-shirt and shorts on top.
I’m definitely on a journey. I went from having a small body and feeling athletic to having a baby, which completely transformed my body shape and size and how it felt and operated. It did this amazing thing of growing and birthing a child, but it's been a long journey of reconnecting with my body again.
My postpartum body is very different to how I was before. It’s ever changing; the healing process, various stages of breastfeeding and now settling into a new, and very different, me. During baby-growing, I went from being a size eight to a size 16 and I’m now back to a size 10, but it's only recently that I transitioned from a 12 down to a 10 again. I'm covered in stretch marks and now have cellulite in new places; I’m learning to accept this new normal, but also appreciate that my body is still strong and I can still put it through the paces even though it looks different.
That’s the positive in my journey. I used to feel that my body had to look a certain way for it to be effective, and now I know that it doesn’t. Like, the other day, I went climbing for the first time since having Boaz. I was a really strong climber pre-baby, and, actually, I was impressed at how my body moved and how strong it was considering I haven't been climbing much recently. I’m a bit chunkier than I was and not as fit. But my body was still performing fairly well and I was like, well done you!
Thinking back to when you were younger, when did that emphasis on appearance begin?
A lot later on because I was a solid tomboy and super outdoorsy. I was too busy being an outdoor bod to think much about it, spending time in a wetsuit or paddling gear. I remember my friends taking the mick out once when I was like 14 or 15 for having hairy armpits and being mortified but not really knowing what to do about it. For me, my body was a tool for athletic performance. I was on a GB team for canoe polo and so was very focused on being strong and not really how I looked.
I didn't really make a conscious effort with style either until I was about 20. I’m one of four sisters and three of them are directly below me in age; we're all three or four years apart. They were quite instrumental in my journey. So, it wasn't until I had a job where I spent a lot of time in an office that I thought about how I looked and realised that if you look tired, you can put on makeup that makes you look less tired! People were commenting that I looked exhausted and while no one cared in the sea, you go into an office and people notice. I remember going toBoots that first time and being like, so what makeup does one buy? I just had zero clue.
So, how were your sisters instrumental in your journey?
So, I'm the eldest girl and second eldest of eight. Then there's me and then three more girls, and then two boys and the youngest girl who’s 13. They are my everything. My sisters are all very complimentary. So, I'm super outdoorsy with Asha, who was also on the shoot. Once she turned 16, I would drag her rock climbing with me and take her surfing. Whereas the two in between me and Asha both went to art college and then art school together. They’re super creative. One does ceramics and jewellery and the other does sculpture. We have monthly holidays together, many late night catch ups and long chats in the car. They're my best friends. They're my ride-or-dies. I wouldn't be the person I am today without them and I literally couldn't do life without them.
We squabbled a lot when we were kids, obviously, but since being adults, we’ve become really close. Hard things in life happen in life and I don't know how I’d get through without them. I’m in the process of getting divorced and I didn't know how I would look after my toddler, or not be a bitter person or appreciate the beautiful things in life, or how I would have dealt with lockdown or pregnancy without someone to cry with. I didn't realise how the relationship I have with my sisters is so unique. They’re my everything and I don’t know what I’d do without them.
Do you think that having such a secure and close family unit has given you unusual self-confidence?
Yes, 100%. One of my sisters values beauty on a whole new level. She’s a purveyor and orchestrator of beauty. She's been really helpful in that if I'm like, oh, this dress clings to my body, it makes my tummy look like this, she’s like, you look amazing and beautiful. I know that's not like a friend trying to give me a boost – she genuinely thinks that. My Mum and my sisters are all like this as well, they all speak positive affirmations into my life. They’ll say, of course you feel chunky because you just had a baby and that's fine, appreciate where you've come from or look at where you are and how hard you've worked. They were there when I was with my newborn crying because my body wasn't doing what I wanted it to do; holding and comforting me though those moments. Having people to journey with you and bolster you not in a shallow way, but right to your soul, means that you have the courage to accept where you're at and energy to push on.
How do you pass on that confidence to your youngest sister?
She's a very different body type from the rest of us. So, she’s 13 and she’s already taller than me and she has this gorgeous ginger curly hair. But we're all tiny, like I'm one of the bigger ones, but my little sister is a size 12. I remember a couple of years ago, she was like, when am I going to be beautiful like you guys? And we said, you are beautiful. Then, in classic sister fashion, we went out and bought her a new outfit and did a photo shoot with her with roses in her basket, all very cottage core and cutesy. We showed these pictures to her and said, see you are beautiful. She has moments of wanting to be beautiful or wearing whatever she wants to and living it up on her rollerblades. We love going for a swim or going surfing together and we got her surfboard last summer, but there’s also the reality of being at very different life stages and not pressuring her to grow up fast.
So, let's talk about surfing. How did you start?
I moved away from the beach and then I started surfing! So, I grew up doing outdoor sports and surfing was the thing I never really wanted to do because it was really inaccessible for many reasons. I didn’t drive until I was 19, plus I was big into kayaking; training and competing in canoe polo for team GB. I spent most of my time training and competing internationally.
Then, when I moved to Cardiff for a job, I was competing and I went to a couple of really bitchy girls’ competitions. It wasn’t teamwork, it was a bitch fest and I couldn’t deal. I’d had enough. It was also a self-funded sport and work was really busy, so I didn't have the time. Around that time, my friend Sophie had moved to uni and left her surfboard behind and she was like, if you want to use my surfboard, that's fine. But the biggest thing was that I learned to drive. You have to drive. You can't get to the beach on the bus with a board. So, I would drag my friend Diane surfing after work in the dark in the winter. She was always so up for it, but even after a year she hasn’t got any further forwards in her surfing. But she was so up for it and would body board, so it was just fun. We'd surfed a lot at Porthcawl and then I moved back to the Gower in 2016 to manage a water sports centre. I had a friend there, and we’d surf together after work. I bought a surfboard that was more suited to me.
Just being in that water sports environment was great. I had been around the sea my whole life so I was very used to reading the water and knew a lot about the ocean. So, surfing was just another thing I did in the sea.
And then I broke both my ankles in 2019 on my honeymoon. We were climbing in Joshua Tree on the second day of a two-week trip. It was a relatively easy climb in the middle of the desert, just super beautiful, and I slipped and just fell really awkwardly between the pad and the wall. So, I spent my whole holiday in California sitting on a bouldering pad watching my husband.
I was retraining in media marketing at the time, but I wanted to tell stories about women in the outdoors; that was my passion. So, I got home in the last week of January and booked a surf retreat in April in Morocco with Asha and Sophie, and I was like, I’m going to be ready for that. And I was. It was great. It was our first time being coached and I learned a lot about coordination and balance. Then, I came back and was working for my dad in an outdoor centre teaching surfing to kids and that really gave me the bug. Then I did my surf lifesaving and surfed more and more and it started being something that I really loved doing.
Then you had your baby. How did that change things?
I got pregnant and then and then lockdown and I was like, I definitely can't surf now. I remember when Boaz was really tiny, me and Asha would get up at half five in the morning to get down to the beach. I remember walking across the carpark and it was icy, and we were sliding in our boots across these sheets of ice on our way down to the beach. But, because I was breastfeeding and with work and uni, it was the only time I could go - it was such a balance trying to manage everything.
Those first couple of sessions, I could hardly get my wetsuit on, I couldn't get on my board, I was flopping around like a whale. It was unbelievably frustrating. The sea was a place I went to go and relax and have a nice time and switch off, but it became this source of anxiety and stress because my body wasn't performing as I was used to. It wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, I couldn't move, my nipples were rubbing against the wet neoprene and chafing. I was like, they're now bleeding, fantastic. But climbing was even worse; I just couldn't pull my body, so surfing was definitely easier because it was lots of floating and at least I was getting on board and feeling like me.
It was like my whole paradigm of life had changed post-baby and actually it was surfing that helped me connect with myself. It was a space where I felt like me and not just the new mummy me. Ever since then, I've been really intentional about surfing. Me and my husband had separated and I’d always wanted a longboard and to try that style of surfing. So, I bought my first longboard last June and then booked onto a women-only longboard course withGathering & Glide in Cornwall with my sister. I found my jam, longboarding was for me and I loved it.
So, surfing has never not been fun. But it's definitely transitioned into being something I do because I love it and I want to get better at it. I love the progression of it instead of feeling that I have to be better because I have to be an instructor or lose weight. I just love surfing. I love the feeling, the motion, being in the sea, the challenge of it and the people I get to surf with.
And now you pass that on to other women. How does it feel to help other women and how is your experience helped you offer that support?
Being a mum changed that journey because there’s now a whole new level that you can connect on. You realise that your mental limitations aren’t unique to you- every mum has got them. My sister had ran a women's paddleboard club just out of lockdown. Lots of the women who came were my mum’s age. And I remember writing this Instagram post when the 10-week course had ended and I was in bits. I was crying. I learned so much from those women, people who’d learned water confidence, being out of their depth, wearing a wetsuit for the first time and not worrying about what they looked like, facing fear after living in fear during Covid, connecting with people again, and pushing themselves.
I had all this stuff in my head when I was pregnant and post-baby saying, you can't do this because you've got a baby and you might hurt yourself and baby needs you. And that limiting mindset stays with you for ages. Some of these women in their late 50s and early 60s have had these thoughts since they gave birth in their 20s. It’s just stayed with them their whole lives because you're so used to putting your child before you. But now their kids are the same age as me and it's like, this is the time for you – like, it was time for you ages ago, but now you have the capacity to for this mental and physical challenge. It was phenomenal.
With Gower Women’s Surf Society, it's great to be able to do that on like a slightly different scale. I don't do much of the coaching, which I do miss. The thing about Gower Women’s is that it's much bigger so it can be less personal because you're not as involved in people's personal journeys. But my longer-term goal is to progress my surfing so that I can become a coach. I think that often women need this permission and Gower Women’s is like this big, open permission space that says, come as you are and do what you need to do and we're here to hold your hand or to stand with you.
You gave yourself permission to do the D&B photoshoot. How did that feel?
Cold. It was very cold. I’m not adverse to the cold, but because I did lots of cold water surfing in lockdown, I associate that cold with that place of challenge. So, I was like, it’s ok, your body's going into fight or flight, but you're safe. Also, when you have those experiences, your brain goes into comparison mode, right? Because from day dot, you're a woman and you have to compete for the best mate. Get the sexiest man and you will be safe and provided, like primal instincts, engage, compare, compete! And then you’re like, no, this is my sister who adores me and this is my good friend who's got my back and you're having fun and it's lovely.
It's interesting, though. You think, I wish this was different or I was taller. But then you ask yourself, is it in my control or out of my control? Does it matter? No. What difference does it make to my life? It might make you upset for five minutes until you get a hold of your inner worth and that confidence. That’s where having that enforcement of sisters who were like, this is who you are and this is way more important, comes in. So, yes, Asha has a better waist, but does it make a difference to our lives? It’s also realising that even if you're thinking that they look better in that picture, they have their own insecurities and things that they're battling with. Everyone's in the same boat with comparison and I wish it wasn't a primal thing. We need to accept where things are and come from a space of gratitude. Be grateful for your body, be grateful for your friends and be grateful for these experiences.
How do you think being active together protects you from those intrusive thoughts?
I think we’re just so absorbed in the thing that we’re doing. It’s so interesting – last year was the first time I saw pictures of me surfing. You just have this vision in your head of how you look and then I was like, oh, ok, the vision and the execution were not matching up.
The reason I love team sports was because it’s not about how you look, but how you’re communicating and working as a team. But climbing or surfing are very egotistical and selfish sports; they’re just for you. You want to feel like yourself, but it’s not until you’re in front of a camera that you’re like, how do I look, am I stylish, am I leading with my chest and pointing my toes? And then you get so in your own head that you can't do anything and you just fall off. So, it’s much better if we just have fun. I don't go in the sea to look good; I go surfing because I love surfing. I like the feeling of gliding over the water and hanging out with my friends. I like being in a beautiful place and enjoying nature. It never gets old, you know? And the idea of what I look like or what other people think about what I look like never really comes into it.
So yeah, I think sport is a great protector. Even the women who I've worked with who are quite in their head about the wetsuit and their posture, as soon as you get going then you're so absorbed and outside your comfort zone that you focus on the activity. Those feelings and thoughts are probably still there, but the overwhelming thought is the present.
What do you like about your D&B?
I love a two piece. I tend to buy quite sporty things to keep everything where it needs to be. But, I really love the cut of the plunge on the top because it was also really secure. It was lovely to wear under a wetsuit as well; it didn't ride up, it didn’t move and it wasn't chafing or rubbing. So, practically, it was also a really good suit to wear. And it’s just really complimentary. I'm a high waist kind of girl because it keeps everything where it needs to be and I don’t like to have to fold myself back in every five minutes especially when you've got stretchy skin. And when you’re breastfeeding – these puppies have minds of their own so you’ve got to keep them in their place! I'd be happy playing on the beach in this bikini and I know I wouldn't be falling out and having to worry about my nipple hanging out under my armpit. So, I love the cut, love the feel and love the support.
Ebbi wears The X-Back Swimsuit in Black and the Plunge Bikini in Black both in size 10 Monroe
If you're inspired and uplifted by this post about love of water, the sea, your swimming or surfing sisterhood and your body, why not read more from our Love Flows campaign?
"Like, it's not good for us to just gaze at one another. You have your friends, they have their friends and you have your shared friends, but then you have your shared thing that you gaze upon together... For us, it's the sea. The sea is the thing that we gaze upon together, that we appreciate together." Read Rachel's story
"There are all those dynamics of sisters in the family sense, and then you have that in a friendship as well. I think the thing that has been really nice is this idea of sisterhood and how it transcends blood relations... In a way, we’re all sisters. It’s why we have stickers with sisterhood on it. We want to spread that feeling of unconditional love and comradery." Read Tirion's story
"I think there are so many things that come with going in the sea, like this whole feeling being empowered and those tiny acts of rebellion, so if you feel like you look incredible at the same time, you just unleash a whole superpower that you never knew you had. It's a scary combination for everyone outside of you!" ReadMickey's story
“There's often a bit of a juggle so actually having that one-on-one time with each of my children is a special thing. For me and Indi to go down and have a swim, and then what comes after – getting dressed without exposing ourselves, having a nice warm drink and chatting all wrapped up – it’s very special.” Read Helen’s story
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Band Size (inches)
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