LAURA ENEVER TURNS BIG WAVE DAVE
My screen froze while streaming the opening sequence of Laura Enever’s movie Undone. Literally two minutes in. The screen froze as she was inside the tube at Shipstern Bluff, upside-down and back-to-front, having been flipped violently on her first ever wave out there. I looked closely and her leg appeared to have no leg bone in it – it seemed to be just waving in the breeze. Laura momentarily looked like one of those inflatable air dancers you see out the front of used car lots, flailing wildly, limbs akimbo. She’d originally wanted to call the movie Jack on the Rocks, which is where she was presently headed. She got scooped up by the ski, wide-eyed and coughing saltwater, and so began Laura Enever’s mission to become a card-carrying Big Wave Dave.
In real life Laura doesn’t much look like a big-wave surfer – slight, waify, giggly – but big-wave surfers today are hard to stereotype. Laura might not have surfed Shippies before but does have a taste for serious surf. The movie shows her surfing solid P-Pass a few years back, swinging under the lip and coming from deep. Soon after that she famously surfed the first women’s big-wave event at Jaws.
This was all at a time when her tour career was tanking. After years on tour she was struggling to make heats and it was messing with her head. Strangely however, there seemed to be less head noise at Jaws than there was at Honolua. So when the music stopped and she dropped off tour, the idea of chasing serious surf took hold. Laura is one of those girls who one day appears to have no confidence in her own ability whatsoever, then the following day will be Kanye West. Wavering confidence is not a great trait for a Big Wave Dave… but it does make a good storyline for a big-wave surf movie.
Laura was always going to make this movie work. She spends large parts of her day spontaneously dancing and goofing off, so there was always going to be plenty of comic relief in this movie to counter the all the big-wave mantras and tight-lipped seriousness. The one moment I thought might have actually been the comic highlight – Laura reversing the jet ski trailer over her brother Chris – actually turned out to be the most serious moment of the film, Chris being carted off to hospital. Despite his sister buckling his knee, there’s an easy, buddy movie vibe between the Enever siblings that keeps the whole thing real.
The film follows Laura as she gets her big-wave game together on the NSW South Coast, before driving across the Nullarbor over to The Right. Once there, Shannon Worrall explains to her before surfing The Right that she could roll off the edge of the reef and be 15m deep in a heartbeat. She nods, but man, in that second you can see the tummy tigers growling. He then starts sticking lead weights to her board and could probably have been sticking them to Laura as well. She gets into her wettie and runs to the car, forgetting her board.
The film delivers only one self-empowerment monologue, on the cliff above Shippies as the film heads toward its denouement. I knew there was one coming… not really my thing but then again I can’t imagine I’m in the movie’s target demo. I was kind of hoping she’d just repeat 50 times the mantra she told herself earlier in the movie – “Don’t straighten out. Don’t straighten out…” It might have helped, because what did she do one her first wave at Shippies? She straightened out! Jack on the Rocks again. I won’t spoil the ending, but things improved from there for our heroine.
Laura’s crew did a great job with this film. The action is well shot from the ski, the coastlines make great wallpaper, and the front seat and car park conversations do the bulk of the storytelling. But Laura makes the film work. She’s such a sweetheart and adds a lightness to the kind of movie that could easily have taken itself way too seriously. Big-wave movies could do with being a little less Laird, and a bit more Laura.