Yesterday at Shipsterns. What an incredible experience, What a powerful place. Thank you to all the boys in the lineup for being such legends & Thank you @martipara for getting me into a few. 🙏🏻 First time to Tassie was one for the books. Also a very special project on the way. Exciting times! #leUNDONE pic – @stugibson
While the surf world was fixated on Snapper, Kirra, and other firing Gold Coast points, another powerful swell lit up Tasmania's Shipstern Bluff, and the usual suspects were there to greet it: Marti Paradisis, Russell Bierke, Brett Bircher, Laura Enever....
Wait, Laura Enever?
While Enever is known to charge big Backdoor and Off-The-Wall, and was one of six women to compete in the inaugural Big Wave Tour stop at Jaws in 2016, we can't remember ever seeing her behind a tow rope, especially out at one of the trickiest, shallowest and scariest slabs in the world.
We hadn't seen it, because she'd never done it. Turns out Enever flew down to Tasmania to "get amongst it" at Shipstern Bluff, while not planning to actually surf. But watching on the rocks turned to watching in the channel. Watching in the channel turned to grabbing the rope. And grabbing the rope turned into getting whipped into the set of the day and the best barrel of her life. And it all happened because, as she puts it, "I'm really bad at saying no."
You've been charging heavy surf for a few years now. When did you first realize you were interested in pushing yourself in big waves?
I was always interested in big waves. But I went on a trip to P-Pass when I was 18, and I got a couple good waves there that just gave me the itch to keep doing it. After seven years of doing the tour and surfing big waves here and there, I hurt myself at Jaws last year, so I couldn't compete on tour. When I didn't get the injury wildcard back on I just went, "You know what, I'm just gonna have a year off, and chase some new waves." It's been awesome and weird and so different to not be following the comp schedules around. I'm working on a film project about it, and I always knew I wanted to build the confidence to go to Shipstern's, and then this swell happened, and the guys convinced me to come down and check it out. I wasn't sure if I was even gonna go out. But I ended up rocking up and paddling out, because at the end of the day I couldn't resist not trying [laughs].
I've seen you paddle 8-foot Off The Wall and 25-foot Jaws but I don't recall ever seeing you behind the rope. Prior to the other day at Shipstern Bluff, how many times had you towed?
Never [laughs]. That was my first time.
Talk about trial by fire.
I know. I was just feeling the whole situation out. I went down with Russell Bierke and Brett Bircher, and a bit of the crew I'm working with on the film project. We got there and did the two hour walk to the wave, and got there at nine in the morning. After a couple hours some of the guys said they were rocking off, and asked if I wanted to join. I decided I couldn't sit on the rocks all day so I jumped in.
Around lunchtime this guy Jared from WA threw me a rope, and I got absolutely lit up on my first wave. Literally my first tow wave ever. I was a bit rattled, so I decided I was just gonna sit there for awhile and watch and take it all in and learn a bit more. A few hours later, I decided to try to paddle into a couple, and Marti [Paradisis] asked if I wanted to get whipped in, so I figured I'd give it another go, and asked him to just whip me into the smaller ones the guys were paddling. But as soon as we got out there, this big set came and Marti towed me into it -- the one from the photo -- and I got lit up again. But I jumped right back on the rope and he put me on a really good wave and I made it. I don't know, it was just a whirlwind.
So you went from thinking you weren't even gonna surf, to getting towed into a 10-footer.
[laughs]. Basically, yeah. I'm really bad at saying no. But it was just so blue and perfect and I couldn't help but try. And I got the barrel of my life, for sure, so I'm glad I did it.
I'm sure those beatings were pretty serious, too. How did getting worked out there compare to other heavy waves?
It wasn't as bad at Jaws, but it's still really intense. You get exploded in all different directions. Luckily I got exploded up. A couple of the guys hit their heads on the bottom that day, and I was super worried about that. I went out at Pipe a couple weeks back and hit my head out there, and that shook me up a bit, so I definitely had it on my mind. But I had the impact suit on, and Marti and guys amped me up, and I knew they were watching out for me, so that all made me feel better.
You must've been on a pretty good adrenaline high by the end of that day.
Yeah. I went back in across the rocks, and then had a two hour walk back to the car, so I had to stay focused for that. I didn't know how big that walk was, and I wouldn't say I was well-equipped. But yeah, it was quite the experience. It was just the best vibes. Watching Russell and Marti and a bunch of the local guys get huge barrels was just insane. It was amazing. I felt like I was winning even before I got those last couple of waves.
Now that you've done it, are you looking forward to going back? Or are you happy having experienced it once?
I was on a borrowed board and didn't have any of my own equipment, so I didn't feel like I was really ready to go there. I just wanted to get amongst it, with no expectations. But in the back of my head I know if someone gave me a board and threw me a rope I wouldn't say no [laughs]. So yeah, I'm excited to get boards ready, train a bit more, and go back out there and be more confident and prepared. My goal this year is to paddle into some really good waves, and I also want to go back to Jaws and try to make it down a wave, because all I've done is go over the falls there [laughs]. It'd be nice to actually make one. But yeah, I'm not competing this year, so I'm really stoked to chase some more waves like this, and keep up work on the film project. Hopefully I can go score some more.