Why Laura Enever Walked Away From Pro Surfing To Conquer The Big Waves As A Freesurfer

Within seconds of letting go of the tow rope, the now 28-year-old knew she was in trouble. Far from the elegant glide across the wall of water she’d visualised, she was swiftly tossed in the air by one of the most dangerous waves in the world. As the slab reared up behind her, Enever clumsily cartwheeled backwards down its face. As it crashed down she, and her surfboard, were held under in the wash for what felt like minutes. Gasping for breath, she burst through the surface moments later. As her watching friends all momentarily held their breath, she gave them a beaming smile.


“That was my worst wipe-out and after that they all thought I’d be scared off but, once I knew I was unscathed, it was the best feeling ever,” Enever says, still smiling at the memory.

It was 2017 and Enever had just entered the world of big wave, or freesurfing. It was a scratch the young surfer had wanted to itch for many years but, as one of the best female surfers in the world and with a successful career on the world tour, it hadn’t been an easy decision to make. She was walking away from potential winnings of up to $100,000 a year and into a sport in which she would be one of only 20 or 30 women worldwide.


“It was scary, I was leaving behind something I’d done all my life,” Enever says “Lots of people were shocked, but I was stubborn. The worst that could happen was coming back and having to start fro the bottom again and I was OK with that.”

The other ‘worst’ was the possible injuries she could sustain. Freesurfers tackle waves of 15-20 feet (4.5–6 metres). “I was willing to put myself in dangerous situations to do what I love,” she says. “Once I’d made the decision and stopped thinking what everyone else thought, it was exciting and empowering. In the following years, I had to keep looking back to that time and remember why I was doing it. When you make a big transition, you have to trust yourself and keep pushing through when things are hard.”

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And Enever says things were often hard. “There were little wins, like riding a particular wave or being invited to The Eddie [the world’s premier big wave surfing event] in among the mountain of failure,” she says. Documenting her journey in the new film, Undone, she says she was often her own worst enemy.

“My fear was big at times,” she remembers. “There’s a lot of negative self-talk, but I’ve learnt to quieten that part of my head. When you find your way, the fears can’t creep in.”

After her epic wipe-out she’s also learnt about not rushing in. “Even if I go to a wave I can say no to it and that decision can be just as empowering [as deciding to surf],” she explains. “I have to listen to how I feel. I can have a goal for five or 10 years. It’s my life and my body and I’ll know when the time is right.”

That’s exactly what happened for Enever two years into her new career, back at Shipstern Bluff. “I was on the jetski and about to throw in the towel when the sun came out,” she says. “This wave popped up and I let go and did everything I’d trained for. It was so special; the wave of my life. I could see everyone screaming on the boat. It’s so hard to explain how much it meant. It was the amazing reward at the end of two hard years.”


Now with some big wave achievements under her belt and her film out in the world, what’s next for Laura Enever?

“I’m open to competing again,” she says. “There’s some unfinished business there. I’m so glad that I took this time out, though. Even when it made no sense it felt good. You have one life. If there’s something you want to do, you should do it.” 

Head to the undonefilm.com website to watch the film live from 22 May.

This article originally appeared in the June issue of Women’s Health. 

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