Out of the World Tour and still sizzling! Photo: Billabong
Laura Enever Has Come Undone
Out of the singlet and playing with tow ropes!
After sixteen years of competitive surfing Laura Enever is off the ‘CT and looking toward the next stage in her life. No more jerseys. No more season calendar. A wide-open schedule. Free to do as she may.
It’s enough to make a person who’s spent the majority of their entire life focused on structured moments in the public eye quake with fear.
What... now? What... next?
The answer, Laura Enever is hoping, is big waves, cold water, and heavy beatings. With, of course, some modeling thrown into the mix. Because that’s part of her job, and one she’s damn good at.
"I've been surfing since I was 10 years old and I was a tomboy for years and years."
Stab: Laura, there were questions around what you were going to be doing this year, now that you’re off tour. The path of least resistance seemed just cruising, keeping busy with modeling, doing some freesurfing along the way… But you seem on an entirely other, um, trip.
Laura: Yeah, I’m not competing this year, and I just had places that I wanted to go and look for swells.
This year, my whole plan is just to go surfing. I’m not competing for the first time in like 7 years on the CT, and I just want to take this year and run with it, look for some waves in the tropics, and also work on a new big wave project.
Obviously, that’s a bit of a divergent route for a female surfer/model, at least historically speaking. While it does seem to be shifting, however glacially, there's still a real difference between the roles that professional female surfers and professional male surfers play. Like the women balance being a model with being an athlete. Whereas with guys that doesn't really seem to be the case. Am I imagining that?
This is a massive question that everyone's been talking about for a while now. But I don’t know, I have to disagree, because I definitely think there are male surfers that are also male models as well. Like you look at Julian [Wilson], and Jack Freestone. All the guys are really good-looking, and they're all extremely marketable for their brands. They are on tour. They are actually a whole package as well.
There's so many amazing women too that are exactly the same as the guys. They're incredible surfers, winning, and they are completely marketable. It's exactly the same.
But in the context of your career, you’ve done a lot of modeling. You don’t necessarily have to go out and prove anything to keep working.
Yeah, totally. I've been surfing since I was 10 years old and I was a tomboy for years and years. Then I started doing some shoots with my sponsor Roxy. I was sponsored by Roxy for seven years. Then by Nike for four years. Then by Billabong for the last five years.
All their products are bikinis, wetsuits, clothing, and that's the modeling side of it—wearing a company’s products. I guess that's the same as what the guys do as well. They probably don't pose as much as we do...
I'll say this, I do model, but because I love working and collaborating with amazing photographers, and stylists, and brands, making awesome content. Because in this day and age, with social media, it's all about content creation.
"I said, 'No. Way! I haven't even surfed anything over 12 foot before!'"
You said you grew up being a tomboy. Did you have to make a conscious effort to present yourself as more feminine to help your career?
No, it happened totally natural for me. When I grew up, all the girls that were my heroes, they were all tomboys. We all wore long boardshorts. I would go on trips with them, and we would all muck around.
But then, all the girls that I looked up to would also get dressed up, and be feminine, and they were all beautiful and amazing.
I decided that I wanted to be girly, like all my friends. It just naturally evolved, just wanting to be a bit more feminine. Then it evolved a lot.
But your femininity doesn’t seem to define you as a surfer. I mean, you’re starting to get, an, um, reputation… Basically that you’re fearless, made of hard steel, up for anything that comes your way, etc. I mean, you hadn't surfed Pe'ahi before the 2017 event, correct?
No, I hadn't.
Pete Mel came up to me, when I was at Portugal for the WCT in September, and said, "Laura, would you want to go in the first comp at Pe'ahi?"
I said, "No. Way! I haven't even surfed anything over 12 foot before!"
He told me, "It'd be the perfect chance. We'd only ever run it between 12-15 foot, perfect conditions, you'd have the world's best water safety looking after you, it'd be the perfect time to try."
I was like, "Actually that sounds so good. If I'm ever going to try to surf Jaws why not do it with no one out, with the world's best water safety, and perfect conditions?" Which it did end up being.
I remember it being massive and windy.
[Laughs]That was the catch.
I thought the wave was going to be easy to paddle into, but the wind ended up being really, really crazy.
It was way bigger than I expected it to be. But I thought, "I just have to go for it. I've come all the way here and I'm not going to sit in the channel and not try."
The other girls that got injured, it was such a shame. Keala [Kennelly] charges out there. Emily [Erickson] charges Waimea all the time. It was such a bummer that the girls were getting taken down.
Since that happened, I pretty much have been trying to train, and get stronger and fitter. So I can go back, and try to do it properly, and make it down a wave [laughs].
Just to state the obvious: That's a little lady in a big barrel.
So your Shipsterns session has everyone talking about this new project. How did that trip come about?
I came up with the idea “Undone” on the walk down to Shippies, actually. There was heaps of random things that had happened, and the word kind of encapsulated this year perfectly, as people keep asking me what I’m going to do off tour.
With “Undone” we’re just going to shoot around Australia, a few waves down the East Coast, South Oz, then maybe West Oz and Tassy. Kind of opposite to the tropical, bikini climate—like, raw, unruly waves, just like the places that I wouldn’t usually end up.
But now, that’s how I want my year to be, I just want to put myself in places I’d never really go. Go have a bit of an adventure. We’re going to get a whole lot of people to come along and document the adventure and yeah, just have fun.
And see, that’s what I mean: Fun. I can’t think of many young women who would use that word to describe Shipsterns. Walk us through that session, would ya?
Shippies was meant to be the last wave we went to. We were going to go to other waves in Oz first, but it all just ended up, just, happening.
I’ve got a cool little team around me right now that are supporting me and helping with this project. With Shippies there’s only a few swells a year that it turns on, and Russell Bierke and Brett Burcher and a couple of Sydney guys were going down, and Steve Wall, who is filming my project.
They were like ‘just come down, you might get a couple of bombs, or you might not.’
And you just thought, Sure, why not?
In the back of my head, I thought I’d just be spectating. I’d just go down and see it. I decided, if I went down and didn’t catch a wave, I’d be totally fine. I was just going to suss the place out, cos I’ve never towed before and I didn’t want to do anything stupid [laughs].
I ended up doing the two-hour walk in, which I had no idea it was a two-hour walk in. I had, like, none of the right equipment for the hike in—my knees and legs and feet were like buckled by the end of it.
You get to this big ol cliff, and all morning I watched the boys towing in, just going over huge steps, going ham.
I was sitting on the rock going: there’s no way I can do that.
The boys said looking from the rocks is far more intimidating than being in the lineup, and I thought, ‘I’m here, I’ve got a board.’ The photographers that were rocking off were just like ‘come out and check out the lineup.’ At least I’ll do the rock hop—that’s scary enough.
"They were like ‘just come down, you might get a couple of bombs, or you might not.’"
Jesus. As if that wave needs another Barrier To Entry.
I did the rockoff, paddled around, and within ten minutes Jared from WA asked me if I wanted to get towed into one. I was bit hesitant, then I thought, ‘Fuck it, I’ll give it a shot’
My first wave, I just over thought it and went down the step and I took the wrong line and ended up getting pretty flogged. I kind of just sat in the boat for a while—it got really low tide, and steppy, so I just watched the boys go absolutely crazy.
Then the conditions in the afternoon just turned around. It was the most scary, beautiful wave I’ve ever seen. I went try to paddle into a couple, but on the way Marti intercepted me and asked if I wanted to get towed into a couple. I was like, ‘yeah, towing looks a bit easier than paddling right now, sounds good!’
We got out the back and did a loop and pretty much threw me into the first wave—I think most people seen that one getting around—I pretty much cartwheeled the whole way down.
That was like my first real wave. I thought ‘Oh. My. God. This is way bigger than what the boys are paddling’—I could see them all scratching to get over it. I just let go of the rope and tried to hold a line but I just rode too high above the step, and got sucked straight over.
How’d that wipeout compare to, say, your Jaws beating?
It was kind of like, you just get exploded. That’s the only way I can describe it.
And it’s kind of fun. I didn’t get injured which is great. I came up laughing my head off, I couldn’t believe it.
The whole channel was just screaming. I could hear all the boys just losing it. They were saying it was the best cartwheel they’ve ever seen at Shippies.
Marti asked me if I wanted another one, and I was like ‘yep, sure.’
I wasn’t going to end on that. I was sure it couldn’t get worse, right?
We waited out there for a bit and another really nice one came and I got down the steps and pulled in and got a good one, which was awesome. I ended up seeing the photos and had no idea they were that big.
The whole day was this epic whirlwind, it was just the best vibe. I was very nervous rocking up there—just what everyone would think of me, never towing before, I just wanted to ease into it.
But the boys were just so welcoming, they just had the best vibe on, all day. They were like ‘we’re stoked whether you make it or whether you eat shit, it’s great viewing.’ [Laughs.]
I didn’t get injured which is great. I came up laughing my head off, I couldn’t believe it.
You come across as so upbeat about everything, and it’s impressive to see you dusting yourself off from last year’s injuries and falling off tour. But you are a professional athlete, and I don't believe that you aren't 100 percent committed to winning. You have to really fucking want it to get where you are.
Totally. I realized the last couple of years that competing on tour wasn't what I wanted to do. You have to really want it to be on tour. For me, it got to the place where I don't think I wanted to win a World Title enough, compared to some of the other girls.
All the girls on tour are inspiring—there’s just so many amazing women. They’ve all been super supportive. I think I’ll still tag along to tour events to have fun with all the girls, all my good friends. They inspire the shit out of me [laughs].
But what I truly love is surfing big waves. After I realized that on tour, I was really distracted, and just wanted to go on trips and surf big waves.
If I pinpoint the best experiences of my last five years, it'd be going on surf trips to Fiji when it was pumping and P-Pass when it was pumping, and then even the Jaws experience.
I feel I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing when I'm on those trips.
Are you going to try to re-qualify?
I'm going to try to keep my seed up this year, but my goal isn't to re-qualify.
I haven't won a comp in the last four years. You have to be a good loser to be a competitive surfer. Growing up, I was winning all of the local junior events. And then, you get on to the main stage, and get your ass kicked by Steph Gilmore and you're like, "Oh. I better get used to this."
I had so many heats with Steph and I probably only beat her twice in the seven years I was on tour. I think you just have to learn how to be humble. You could be feeling really confident, and get combo'd by someone and be like, "Oh yeah. All right. I'm going to shut up now."
[Laughs] Oh, no. No, I don't.
But a couple of years ago I was fed up with competing and feeling like I just did not want to do it anymore. I was upset because I was like, "This is, like, the best job. But I'm not as stoked at competing as I used to be. What's wrong with me?"
If all else fails, I'll be back on the 'QS, trying to get back on tour, but I realized that I just love something else more, and I'm going to have the opportunity to try to do what I love this year.