Australian surfer Laura Enever has officially broken the world record for the largest wave ever paddled into by a woman, after the World Surf League and the Guinness World Records verified a 13.3-metre wave she tamed in January.
The 31-year-old spent seven seasons on the WSL championship tour before pursuing opportunities in big wave surfing. She caught the record-breaking wave at Outer Reef on the North Shore of Oahu earlier this year but the feat was only confirmed by record-keepers on Thursday.
“I knew it was big when I paddled into it and then when I took off I looked down and I knew it was definitely the biggest wave I’ve ever caught,” said Enever.
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That day the North Narrabeen local was second alternate to the prestigious Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational held on a break closer to the beach, meaning she would only take part if two women were injured.
Instead, she and friend Felicity Palmateer decided to go to the Outer Reef, approximately one kilometre offshore where the deep ocean meets the shallower island sea floor.
Many big wave surfers rely on jet skis to tow them into waves at speed, but certain conditions allow surfers to adopt a traditional approach and paddle in.
“I knew it was the wave of my life, the whole way it all came together and the way I committed, backed myself, told myself to go, and trusted I could do it,” she said.
“The ride was such a breakthrough for me and a moment that will be really special and monumental in my surf career.”
The Australian bettered the previous record – set by Brazilian Andrea Moller in 2016 – by less than a metre. On the day of Enever’s wave, Moller was one of six women competing in the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational for the first time.
Enever said she wouldn’t be in this position without the women big wave pioneers that had come before her.
“Andrea Moller held this record before me and it’s an honour to hold that record and keep pushing big wave surfing,” she said. “And I know that the next girls, the next generation of female big wave surfers are going to do the same.”
Hawaii’s Aaron Gold holds the men’s record for paddle-in waves for a 19.2-metre giant he caught off Maui in 2016.
The largest wave ever surfed was by Sebastian Steudtner, when he was towed into a 26.2-metre monster in Nazaré, Portugal, in 2020.
The height of the waves are measured using available video footage, the location of videographers, and known objects such as jet skis and the individual surfers.