Laura takes the big drop

Laura takes the drop and breaks a record. Photo WSL.

Australia’s Laura Enever, one-time junior champion, surf glamour queen and now World Surf League commentator and big wave guru is a woman of considerable achievement and a big fan base, but for the 31-year-old from North Narrabeen the champagne lost its fizz pretty quickly last week when her crowning glory, a Guinness World Record for “the largest paddle-in wave ever ridden by a female” was called into question by surfing’s rampant blogosphere.

And before we get into this, let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Laura is a great surfer whose big wave accomplishments are beyond dispute. As the WSL’s Jessi Miley-Dyer put it, “Laura is fearless, committed, and a real inspiration”. But the wave that put her into the Guiness Book of World Records, one she caught on 22 January 2023 at one of Oahu’s outer reefs, which measured 43.6 feet from crest to trough, was one she didn’t make. To put it into the competitive parlance, she didn’t ride out. In fact, looking at the video you could even make a case that she didn’t complete the drop.

But what a drop! On and on it went, and when you watch the video you can almost hear her heartbeats. And then she gets snuffed by a mountain of whitewater, and that’s all she wrote. Except for the Guinness entry.

The problem is that Laura didn’t ride out of possibly the biggest wave a woman has ever paddled into. But Guinness doesn’t stipulate exactly what constitutes a ridden wave. Social media went berserk about this, while recognising the heroic achievement in taking off on the beast.

A couple of comments: “It can’t be a world record if she wasn’t able to complete the drop. Big props though, Laura, for even trying to paddle into such a beast!”

“Hats off to her, absolutely charging, but more of a wipe-out, the lip landed on her. Give her female wipe-out of the year.”

Well, I give her G for guts, which is what she has shown so many times, but the Guinness mob needs to get its criteria straight.

Say it ain’t so, Mono!

It’s not the first time that multiple world adaptive surf champ Mark “Mono” Stewart has lost a world title, but it always hurts me when he does, because he’s a very special mate, and he’s still competitive at that level in his 60s.

So even bowing out early is an accomplishment, and I know Mono will be back for more.

But Mono’s elimination in round two of last week’s ISA world para-surfing championships at cranking Huntington Beach, California opened the way for others to shine, and I know that Mono is such a sportsman that he would appreciate that. In fact his old sparring partner “Sponge” Williams from Wales took out the gold in the men’s kneel division, with our Red Dog Wheatley taking bronze.

Other Aussies to take gold included Joel Taylor in the men’s prone 1, and Emma Dieters in the women’s prone 1, but perhaps the most interesting gold medallist was French/Australian Laurie Phipps, whose gold in the women’s stand 2 helped the French to team gold for the first time. Laurie, who divides her time between Point Lonsdale in Victoria and Hossegor in France, is the daughter of renowned international surfboard designer and shaper Mark Phipps. A couple of years ago, still a teenager, Laurie had her foot severed in a horrendous motor cycle accident. A girl of true grit, who had grown up on a surfboard, she just got back to work, taking the French para surf title earlier this year to qualify for her second para world titles. Well, she delivered, and I’m sure my friend Phippsy is a very proud dad.

FOOTNOTE: Just after lunch on the eve of the triathlon two weeks ago, I looked out of my home office window and saw a woman, with three children trailing behind, wheel an overladen supermarket trolley onto the public park on the riverfront across the street, pull up next to a clump of trees and start making camp. It’s a lovely park, so I couldn’t fault her choice, but overnight camping is not allowed. I watched as she struggled to set up her tents in the hard earth, then went over to investigate. Clearly she was homeless and also unwell, needing to lie down frequently. I helped her with the tents and also offered her family the use of our laundry toilet (accepted) while trying to work out what I could do next to avoid her being moved on with nowhere to go next.

After speaking to several homeless help-lines (admittedly on a weekend) with no result, I ended up calling Sandy Bolton, our MP who has been very close to homeless issues. She advised me to call the police. What, and get her chucked off the park with nowhere else to go! No, she said, they will know the case and find somewhere else for her in the short term.

Sandy was right, of course, and when I finally connected with local police, they arrived before nightfall and took the tents down and re-established this poor woman and her children in a shelter.

My point here is that I’d never been confronted with homelessness in this way before, and I didn’t know what to do. Do you? It’s a reality in our town, and so many generous people are working to alleviate it. But if you’re a first responder, you need to have a clue, and sadly, I didn’t.