If you’re not part of the surfing community, it’s tempting to think of those who are as other-worldly. Forever chasing the elusive perfect wave, their lives revolve around the water, such that nothing else matters. They have the keys to physical health (strength, balance, fitness) and surely also yogi-esque keys to mental health (blissed out, in the moment, at one with nature). Pro-surfer Laura Enever, who began her international career at the ripe old age of 11, skewers that myth, speaking openly about her struggles with competition-induced anxiety and her realistic – and holistic – approach to dealing with it. And in doing so, she makes it all the more appealing for the rest of us to take stock. So maybe surfers aren’t from some magical realm where mental health issues don’t exist, but if there’s any connection between Laura’s surfing and her bravery, we should all go Full Gidget.


“I grew up on the Northern Beaches, in Narabeen.

My dad grew up in Manly, and has been surfing his whole life. Mum came over here from NZ when she was 5, and they met when they were 17. Eventually they had my brother Chris, and then me.  I was majorly into gymnastics; Mum was a kindy gym coach so I grew up hanging off the bars and pretty much lived in the gym centre. We’d spend our whole holidays up the coast camping, and living the beach life.  My brother and I both loved the water, but didn’t get into surfing for a while as we loved gymnastics so much. Then by the time I was nine or ten, I felt like I’d been doing gymnastics for a decade and was ready to retire, haha! When we both finally got into surfing. Dad was so stoked, as we could surf as a family every day. We’d go every day, usually before and after school. We’d sleep in our wetsuits so we could go for a surf first thing, then mum would take us to get bacon and egg rolls and we’d head to school. Our parents were amazing and didn’t mind if we skipped some days in the classroom if the weather was good. We were learning life lessons.


So many exciting things started happening for me at such a young age. I went on my first international trip at 11. I was invited to go on the Lisa Anderson Championship Camp (Lisa was the world champion at the time). Being the ‘Roxy girl’ was the dream, and I got to be one.

I was kind of an awkward surfer at that age, all twiggy, but I loved it, and particularly loved the big waves. I was told my technique needed improvement but how great it was that I’d just charge in and had no fear.

Going on these trips with the older girls was amazing. They taught me so much – it was a whole other education. It may sound like I was never there, but I actually loved school, so much so that when I was there I was probably really annoying. I was never in trouble, I loved my teachers, and I did all my homework… but all I wanted to do was surf.


My family are all still very close. Dad still surfs now, so we surf together all the time when I’m home. Here in Narrabeen they have a monthly surf competition for everyone in the club, and Dad always wins the over sixties section. He’s a champ.

My brother Chris ended up being my surf coach on tour for five years, so we got to travel the world together when I made it into the world championships. Those were some of the coolest times. For sure we had some mad blow ups, with that big brother-baby sister dynamic, but he is my number one supporter.


I have learned, especially in the last five years, that if you’re truly not happy somewhere, you can move, grow and recreate yourself.

In the past, I would always cut myself down, limit myself, and think that I could only exist in a certain box. It felt very confusing to think that I wasn’t living up to my full potential and that I couldn’t go and do and be all the things I wanted. Having to jump ship and restart completely and build up again is scary and makes you feel vulnerable, but doing it is so empowering. Because you’re doing something for you! It’s so important to be able to trust yourself and to have self worth.

At such a young age I got sponsorship and management, and then I jumped on the world tour at 17. I was doing everything I had hoped to do in my twenties, but it was happening so much earlier. I didn’t really know myself yet; those teenage years are normally a time learn and grow but I was in the middle of this really intense sport, so I kind of just had to run with it. Things happened during my career that I don’t regret, exactly, but that maybe took me down a path that wasn’t authentic to me. At the time it was just what was happening, though, and I didn’t have a lot of time to reflect.


Someone said to me recently that I should do motivational talks for companies, and I said no one would hire me to do that that because I’d probably tell the employees to pack up and leave!

Staying true to yourself matters so much. If you’re not completely happy with where you are, you don’t have to stay there. And that doesn’t only apply to your job, it’s about anything in life. It can be hard to take a leap because you never know exactly what’s going to happen, so it’s about finding a way to feel at peace with uncertainty.

I eventually realised that I was trying so hard to be this incredible competitor, but not getting the help I needed mentally to deal with my own fears, and that was blocking me from being my best. In the end I realised I wanted to go out and recreate myself. To look back and know I have actually done that… it’s really cool.


My career now is all over the place, in the best way.

I surfed competitively from 16, and when I was 24 I started competing full-time on the World Surf League tour [Ed. note: the highest level of professional surfing]. After a few years I decided to leave traditional competitive surfing behind, and follow my dream to do big wave surfing. I actually ended up making a documentary about that, called Undone. The doco has led me to new phase, post-Covid, where I get to do big wave surfing, do some hosting on the WSL tour, and then also do creative work and projects with brands I am aligned with. My sponsor Billabong and I work on stuff together a lot, and then if there are other brands I connect with in beauty, fashion, outdoor lifestyle and adventure then I do that too. Any work I take on outside of the surf world needs to make sense for me and fit in with my day to day work.


Every day is completely different, because I wear all of these different hats. For instance, if I’m wearing my ‘big wave surfing hat’, I could be getting up at 1am to go surfing all day and just having quiet nights at home, or if I’m in hosting mode, I could be on the road for a week. It’s all over the place.

I do have a lot of energy, but I still need grounding time, and I need my routines. If where I am or what I am doing is changing all the time, which is so exciting, the little things tie everything together and stop me from unravelling.

If I am travelling, I rely on routines to make me feel good while I am in a different environment. I like to have my beauty products, and all my different powders, elixirs and supplements. I love the idea that all these little vials of different things help me feel like me. I also travel with a rolling cork ball, a body brush, just simple things that help me feel good. Then even if I am in a tiny hotel, I can use different things (whether it’s physical items or little breathing or strengthening exercises) to help my body, and it feels just like it does when I am using them at home.

My time at home in Narabeen during Covid was probably the most normal routine I have had for a couple of years.

I am definitely appreciating spending more time with family and friends, and also acknowledge that, at this particular time in my life, the pandemic showed me that I could slow down and things would still be okay. Pre-Covid, I had just started big wave surfing, and to do that you need to be able to chase the same wave around the world – you see the swell and head off. Suddenly, that all stopped, and I was confined to about two kilometres in the same area I grew up. It forced me to pull everything back and realise that it can be nice to live a really simple life.


When I was surfing competitively, there was so much pressure to perform.

I’d surf so well in all the free surfs, when I was just doing it and wasn’t thinking about my performance, but for some reason my mind ended up kind of getting the better of me most of the time I was on tour. I had some amazing results, but eventually I’d fold under the feelings. Most of the time when I lost, it was because mentally I couldn’t perform, and I’d be so bummed. It’s different to losing when you surf amazingly, but it’s just that someone else was even better. That was such a mental battle game.

My anxiety was about a fear of failure. During competitive surfing, my mental state got the better of me, and I would feel panicked in situations which were totally not life threatening. I couldn’t quiet the negative self-talk. It baffles me now with my big wave surfing, which sees me routinely go into actually dangerous situations, with waves that could injure or kill me, that I feel so calm. When I’m in the big waves, I’m in the zone. I love experiencing the challenge and fear (so different to anxiety or panic), and then feeling how I can switch something on in those situations to overcome them. I am very much in the moment, and it feels amazing.

Celebrating her move to big wave surfing, with brother Chris
Image: Julian Martin via Instagram @chrisenever

It may all sound very fast-paced and exciting, which it is, but my favourite thing to do in the world is walk up to my local coffee shop with my dog and just hang out, or spend the arvo down at the park together.

Being quite high energy, I can get very excited and buzzy easily, but that can quickly switch to feeling anxious, so I very much need time to switch off. I like music to help me stay calm – I always travel with a speaker as I love how music can just fit with your mood, or change it. My breathing exercises help, too. Growing up I was a light hearted kid, and never thought I’d be troubled. I surfed, I went to school, and it was all easy. Then once I got into a certain level of competition, I started feeling high levels anxiety and panic. I thought, ‘I’ll just fix this myself’, and spent $800 on a sports psych course. By the time I got to chapter 2, I realised this wasn’t a DIY sort of thing! Finding and building the team who is around me now has helped my mind, body and soul reconnect. Whether or not you’re an athlete, get that help you need and talk to someone. There are amazing health professionals who will help you.

I do have quite dry skin, and all the salt and sand can make things pretty gnarly, so I try to keep my skincare simple.

In the mornings, I splash my face with a bit of cold water, mainly just to wash off the night. Sometimes I’ll use a little bit of an exfoliating scrub, but mostly just water. Then I put on some moisturiser. I am working with Clinique, which is amazing because I have used and loved their stuff since I was a teenager. They keep sending me different things to try, and it’s interesting to see what holds up given how often I am in the water. One of my fave moisturisers is Clinique Moisture Surge 100 Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator. I do love Weleda Skin Food for really dry bits. Then I put on SPF, either tinted or clear, depending what else I am doing that day. If I’m doing a long surf, I’ll use clear SPF then a thick zinc that sits on top of my skin. If I’m not at the beach, I’ll use a clear SPF if I am wearing foundation over it, or a tinted one if I’m not, so I just have a little bit of coverage.

I use a little Konjac sponge at the end of the day to get everything off. I chop and change a lot with cleansers, but I do like the Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm as it really does get it all off. Then I use any everyday cleanser afterwards. I know everyone says you need to exfoliate, but I don’t because my skin is so sensitised, with everything I put it through and so many layers being reapplied during the day.


All my friends like peering into my beauty bag.

I am reapplying constantly and often trying different things to see what works and what lasts, especially with my hosting job where it has to stand up to being in the water all day. I don’t wear a hat doing that job, so I am obsessed with layering sun protection with my makeup. I mix zinc with foundation, often the Inika Loose Mineral Foundation, and use SPF setting powders. I also really like the Patrick Ta Major Brow Dual Ended Brow Brush to groom my brows a bit.

For a night out I’ll add my bronzer, highlighter and a little bit of contour to complete my makeup look, and I love the Clinique Chubby Stick versions of those products. I like to keep the whole look pretty simple, so then I just add in some neutral, matte eyeshadow, either in a shade a bit darker than my skin tone for a low key smoky eye, or a bit lighter to make my eyes pop. I like my makeup to be dewy and effortless, so that it’s enhancing my natural features. A great mascara and setting spray goes a long way!


I get facials every few months to help hydrate, exfoliate and get on top of my pigmentation. I also regularly use saunas, do cryotherapy and get colonics. A healthy gut is so key to healthy everything!

I love nothing more than starting my day with a fresh organic juice or smoothie. My diet is pretty healthy, however, I don’t restrict anything. ‘Everything in moderation’ is my motto. I steer clear of gluten and dairy and do eat mostly vegetarian, but go with how my body is feeling. I always try to make sure that as much as possible of what I am eating is fresh, organic and sustainably farmed.

I see a kinesiologist most weeks when I am at home to keep on top of my health and make sure I am taking the right supplements for what my body is going through. At the moment I am travelling, so am taking probiotics, a zinc supplement, a multi-B supplement as well as magnesium. During the day I like taking medicinal mushroom blends for clarity and focus.

I surf most days, but if I can’t, I always make sure I move my body or do some sort of training, exercise or stretching.

When I am on the road I travel with exercise bands to do resistance and interval training which Is easy and can be done In any hotel room or small space. At home I have a personal trainer to work on strength and conditioning as well as doing clinical Pilates and yoga classes a couple of times a week. I also do underwater breath hold training before the big wave season begins.

I love being in tune with myself and looking after the health of my skin, mind and body now, so I can thrive in the future… and surf as long as I can!”


Interview and story by Zoe Briggs. Images supplied by Laura, and select images, including header image, from Instagram @lauraenever and @chrisenever . With thanks to Laura’s sponsor Billabong.

Laura has paid relationships with Billabong, Clinique and La Roche-Posay.

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