[This is an excerpt from "A Line of Their Own", featured in SURFER Vol. 59, Issue 3, which profiles six women who are carving unique paths through shaping, competition, big-wave surfing and beyond]
"I think she may be nuts," said Marti Paradisis, a man who is most definitely nuts, best known for careening through some of the world's most frightening tubes. Paradisis was talking about Narabeen's Laura Enever after spending a day towing her into beastly waves at Tasmania's snarling monster, Shipstern Bluff, this past March. While calling somebody's sanity into question might sound like a note of disparagement, or possibly even genuine concern, it's actually the highest form of praise coming from a person who calls surfing triple-lipped slabs breaking over barely-wet reefs a good time.
Paradisis wasn't the only person Enever impressed when the surf world was blindsided earlier this spring by footage of Enever at Shiperstern, powering through one of the heaviest barrels ever ridden by a woman. Even though Enever's been charging nightmarish surf for years, she still doesn't come immediately to mind when imagining a roster of the world's hardest- charging women surfers. Well, until now.
Delicately-built with a shock of platinum-blonde hair and a keen sense of style, Enever has long been the World Tour's fashion plate, sometimes seeming as though she'd be more comfortable on a catwalk in Milan than in heavy barrels. But if you've spent any time on the North Shore over the past decade, you've no doubt seen Enever casually stroking out into hair-raising surf at spots like Off The Wall and Backdoor each winter. And over the past few years, she's repeatedly appeared in videos tearing into scary tubes at places like P-Pass and Cloudbreak as well.
A Tour favorite since 2011, Enever failed to requalify for 2018 due to injury—perhaps a blessing in disguise, actually. She's used the break in competition to focus on upping her game in the world's most fearsome surf, which she'd long wanted to do anyway.
"You can't really do much big-wave surfing and focus on the Tour at the same time, so really, it's all worked out," Enever said over the phone, sipping coffee at home. "After I did trips to bigger Cloudbreak and P-Pass, something changed and it took away from my desire to do competition, anyway. I've been spending heaps of time getting more confident and comfortable in bigger waves."
Enever has spent months training her body to better withstand the punishment of big surf, and training her mind to remain calm and quiet when things go wrong. A forthcoming film, called "Undone," will document her journey to big-wave stardom, raising even more surf world eyebrows.
Enever had earned enough of a charger's reputation to secure a slot in the 2016 Pe'ahi Challenge at Jaws, where she unceremoniously pitched backward over the falls in a harrowing wipeout. But it didn't faze her. "I'd love to go back and make a wave at Jaws," she said, with a note of longing in her voice. "I want to be in the next Jaws event."
"She has the extra edge that people either have or don't," says fellow heavy-water addict Alex Gray, who's surfed with Enever at P-Pass. "She puts her head down and goes no matter what. You see her light up with excitement in a challenging lineup when her friends on Tour stay in the boat. She smiles more after a crazy wipeout than she does after a made wave. It's badass. If she wants to focus on waves of consequence, we'll see her ride the 'oh my god' waves. The formula is there for her to become one of the best ever."
Enever's wave at Shipstern wasn't even planned. She'd ventured to the break to get a feel for the place, at first watching from the cliffside, then on a ski from the channel and finally up close and personal whipping into a few waves—her very first time towing. Clearly she's naturally drawn to the big stuff. Like Gray says, it comes down to an edge that surfers either have or they don't.
According to Enever, many women on Tour have that edge, and we're on the cusp of a dramatic reshuffling of the gender balance in heavy-water lineups. "I think lots of the girls on Tour would love to have a go at bigger surf," she said. "And there are more women at spots like Waimea every year. Women in some of the world's biggest waves will eventually just be the norm."