[Ed’s Note: “Undone”, Laura Enever’s cinematic journey into the realm of big-wave surfing, is now available watch on iTunes via this link. The much-anticipated film tells the story of Enever transitioning from a World Tour points chaser into a full-blown slab nut, hunting down tubes of mutant proportions, while also shining a light on the subsequent challenges one faces while pursuing some of the most dangerous waves in the world. Click here or here to watch the movie and keep scrolling to read our interview with Enever, which took place a couple of months ago, just before the film’s world premiere. Oh, and if you’d like to win a bunch of epic prizes courtesy of Billabong, click here to find out more about the contest Enever will be running throughout the launch of “Undone”.]
When Laura Enever fell off the WSL Women’s Tour at the end of 2018, the New South Wales native suddenly found herself at the fork in the road that many a competitive surfer eventually faces: she could try slogging it out on the ‘QS to requalify or, with a suddenly-cleared schedule, she could scratch a specific itch that she’d been unable to do much about with a full-time Tour schedule. She went with the latter option and spent the following year chasing down some of Australia’s most harrowing slabs.
Enever’s never been one to shy away from heavier fare, and during her last few years on Tour, she began developing a reputation for her fearlessness. She threw herself over the ledge at Fiji, she made jaunts to P-Pass when the waves went square and she even had a go at Jaws when she was invited to compete in the 2016 Pe’ahi Challenge. But last year saw Enever commit even more to pushing herself in consequential surf, scoring mutant waves at Shipstern Bluff and beyond.
At the beginning of last year, Enever linked up with filmmaker Steve Wall, and the two decided to make a documentary about her transition from a points-chasing competitive surfer to a giant-tube-stuffing maniac. That film, which they’re calling “Undone”, is finally done and dusted. While she was at home prepping for the world premiere, we called Enever to talk about the film, how she built up the confidence to tackle waves like Shipsterns and why, if the WSL added Teahupoo and Pipe to the women’s ‘CT schedule, she’d try to requalify in a heartbeat.
For those in the dark about this project, give us a gist of what “Undone” is all about.
Long story short, “Undone” follows the transition from when I fell off Tour and decided not to return to competing. When I stopped competing, I knew I wanted to get into big-wave surfing. My main goal was to make it back to Jaws after I got injured [at the 2016 Pe’ahi contest] and I had all these waves I wanted to go surf. Steve and I were on a trip down to the South Coast and we began talking about making this series together. Shortly after I found myself down at Shipsterns in 2018. I went down to watch and ended up surfing. That’s when “Undone” was born and I threw myself into the deep end of hunting down slab waves. We all decided to turn the series into a documentary. Its been a collaborative effort from the start. The film follows all the ups and downs I experienced while I try to surf some of the biggest and most dangerous, slabby waves in Australia.
Going back to that day at Shipsterns — how do you go from being a spectator to surfing such a heavy wave like that?
I still remember that trip so clearly. I did the 2-hour bush walk down into Shipsterns in the dark and all I had was my brother’s old board. I was sure I wasn’t going to surf. The wave literally looks like it’s breaking 5 meters from the rocks. It scared the shit out of me. I sat there for a few hours in the morning and at one point, I had this opportunity to jump off the rocks with the other surfers down there. I felt like I went all that way and I wanted to sit in the lineup and see the other angle of it. I sat there for a couple hours, watched the boys and ended up giving it a shot eventually. But I had no idea what I was doing. It was the first time I had ever even towed so in the back of my head I was like, “You probably shouldn’t be towing here your first time towing” [laughs]. And I got flogged—there’s that one clip of me doing a big cartwheel — that was one of my first waves. I got another wave and I made it to the very end but didn’t make it. After that, I realized I just wanted to keep trying to do that more.
Did you increase your training in any way so you could handle floggings in these types of waves?
Yeah, at the start of last year I upped my training as much as I could and it was also for injury prevention. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of training I just tried to do it as much as I could because if I didn’t do it, an injury could put me out for 6 months. In saying that, you could train all you want and still get a freak injury in waves like that. I did it to make me feel I could be the best I could be.
How many trips did you go on?
We went on 30 or 50 trips. But there were only about 6 trips where we actually scored and are in the film. We did a fair amount of trips up and down the East Coast to find these elusive waves that rarely break. Steve has always been super involved in slab surfing and always filmed a lot of the boys surfing these waves so he knew when they would break. But a lot of time we’d see these swells, drive down, get skunked, drive home and kept trying until we got something. We did lots of driving [laughs].
Do you have a favorite part of the film?
I think my favorite part of the film is one of the end scenes when I return to Shipsterns for the second time after I got that big wipeout and I ended up getting some of the waves of my life. After a year of some rough times, it was one of those moments that made it feel like I had made the right decision. I think one of the hardest things for me during this time was having some doubts about whether I made the right decision to stop competing. When everything came together during these dreamy surfing days — even if it was scoring just one wave — that made it all feel worth it.
Do you miss competing at all?
I mean, not at the moment. I love supporting and watching the girls, but I can’t imagine myself there at the moment. But who knows, maybe in a few years I might start to dabble in a few events. I’ve lost my whole QS [ranking], so I’d have to start pretty much from the beginning. You might see me in some 1 stars in the future [laughs].
If the WSL decides to add women’s events at Teahupoo and Pipe, and you were invited as a wildcard, would you accept?
Oh my gosh, yes. If they put those events on the schedule, I would try to get back on Tour in a second. In “Undone” there’s a lot tow-surfing, so my next goal is to get as confident as I can and work on paddling into these waves. It’s so cool to see so many of the girls, just in the past year, charging Pipe and charging Chopes. So many of the young girls are now knocking down that whole stigma that girls aren’t able to surf these waves. There’s been a big shift now. I think all the girls are like, “Wow, we can do this.” They belong there. I feel like when I started out, I’d have these insecurities that I didn’t belong at a lot of these waves I was surfing, but the more I went out, the more I felt comfortable.
The more you show up, the more you naturally belong.
Totally, and that’s one of the themes of “Undone”. When I got invited to compete at Jaws, I decided I just want to show up and even if I eventually said no [to paddling out], it doesn’t matter. Same thing with my first trip to Shippies. I needed to just put myself in the situation to then make an honest call of whether I want to do it or not. You need to be smart, but you also need to put yourself in the situation to even make those choices.
Do you naturally get amped on charging big waves or do you feel like you had to work on feeling comfortable in those situations, taking sets on the head and wiping out?
Since I was young I always loved big waves. I always felt confident when it was big and felt confident that if I lost my board I knew how to swim in. I used to be a bit nervous about wiping out, but then I realized if you’re going and charging, you’re giving it a shot, and if someone is like, “Oh, she’s not good enough, she shouldn’t even be out here,” or something it’s like, I was just like, “Stuff it. Just because I’m a girl and wiping out doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be out here. I’m trying.”
But I do remember having those feelings being out at Pipe. I went out there right after I decided I didn’t want to compete anymore, before we’d even started “Undone”. I paddled out, was feeling confident, but when I took off on my first wave, I nosedived, went over the falls and cracked my head on the reef. I almost got knocked out, and when I came up the beach lifeguards had to help me. I was fine, but it was one of those situations where I could have had that feeling that I shouldn’t have been out there or I could have been worried what other people were thinking. But I kind of just stopped caring what other people thought and knew this [charging Pipe] was something I wanted to try. When guys eat crap it’s fine, why can’t girls?
When you posted screengrabs from the film on Instagram of you inside the maw of a huge cavern at Shippies or some other slab, it seemed like those images were going viral throughout the surf world. Was it a confidence booster seeing how positive everyone was reacting to the waves you were catching and did it make you feel like you belong in the world of charging slabs?
At the start, I felt like I needed to justify what I was doing, because people would always ask what my plans were and I felt like I had to do this elevator pitch about how I’m going to try and do big-wave surfing and eventually I just dropped it. When I realized I was on my own journey, I kind of stopped trying to prove myself to anyone. I feel like after that everything was flowing more and I was enjoying myself so much more without that pressure, just to not worry about what anyone else thought what I was doing. But obviously everyone has been so kind and supportive. And maybe it used to give me confidence, but now it makes me so happy that I can just, you know, inspire young girls. Or have people think I’m nuts [laughs]. But yeah, I’m just purely doing it for me, which is a really cool feeling.