As a kid, Laura Enever’s playground was the ocean. She was born and bred on Sydney’s northern beaches in Narrabeen, and the beach was her happy place where she surfed after school with local kids and mucked around in the waves. It wasn’t until she tagged along to her brothers’ surf comps that she began to take it seriously. “All I wanted to do was surf,” Laura remembers. “There was no pressure or expectation. It was just me and the ocean.” Then she started to win and the trophies, titles and sponsorships came rolling in. By age 12 she had her first major sponsor, Roxy, and she was living the dream.
With mounting expectations to constantly do more, win more and be more than she felt she could, “It became too much,” Laura recalls. Young and insecure, she began to suffer crippling anxiety and panic attacks. For eight contests in a row, she was unable to progress beyond the first heat and the mental load was taking its toll. She was unravelling and she knew it.
After seeking help from a sports psychologist Laura made a move that surprised many. She took the decision to step away from surfing to reset and clear her head. “In the face of crippling stress and a whirlwind of people telling me what to do, I had to stand my ground,” she says. “If I could tell the younger me anything, I’d tell her: You need to know how courageous you are for doing that. Because since then, you’re the happiest you’ve ever been.”
Now with the benefit of hindsight, Laura often ponders what she’d tell her younger self about this challenging time. “It was a brave move, the right move,” she says. Finding that courage at such a vulnerable time was incredibly hard, she recalls. “I’d tell myself: I’m forever proud of you for making that call and standing your ground.”
By 18 Laura Enever was a household name. She was on the world tour, qualifying for the most elite competitions and taking out the World Junior Champion title in Spain. She was at the top of her game; her face was on TV and magazine covers and everyone wanted a piece of her. “Everyone was backing me to win,” she says. “I’d landed my dream job but with it there was constant pressure.”
After stepping away, Laura found the breathing space she needed to reconnect with the ocean and, in 2016 using borrowed gear, she surfed Jaws in Maui for the first time. She went ‘over the falls’ in an epic wipeout, but far from feeling defeated she found it exhilarating. The experience reinvigorated her love of surfing and Laura Enever, the young ‘grom’ from Narrabeen was reborn. Today, she’s philosophical about her challenges. “I really believe that everything happens for a reason,” she says. “Now my connection to the ocean has never been stronger, and in turn I’ve found my voice and my identity.”
Is there any final advice she’d give her younger self? “Remember why you fell in love with surfing in the first place. The thrill of riding a wave is the only feeling that matters. Forget the critics, forget the expectations and the results. They don’t define you. It’s just you and the ocean.”