Updated: November 30, 2023
A new Guinness World Record has been documented for Australia surfer Laura Enever for her ride at Outer Reef, the big-wave break on the North Shore of Oʻahu, on Jan. 22, 2023. The World Surf League measured and verified her wave to be 43.6 feet, breaking the world record for the biggest wave ever paddled into by a woman.
“That wave, I feel like it was like a gift, really. It was the Eddie swell and the Eddie Aikau event was at Waimea. That day we knew the waves were going to be massive, but just really didn’t anticipate how big it was going to be,” Enever told the World Surf League.
“We woke up in the morning and it was just way bigger than we thought,” she said. “I paddled out to the Outer Reef. I was actually second alternate in the Eddie Aikau event, but instead of just sitting around and waiting at the beach, I decided to go and surf.”
Enever described the wave as, “the biggest, most beautiful, scariest monster I’ve ever seen.”
“We were just going back and forth, trying to not get caught by these huge sets,” said Enever. “When that wave came, I was in the perfect spot, and that’s why I say it was such a gift… I turned and I had to take a few paddles and I felt it pick me up… I knew it was big when I was paddling into it, but it wasn’t until I looked down face, and was like, ‘It’s a long way down,’” she said.
“Hawaiʻi is such a special place. I’ve been going since I was 12 years old, every season. It’s crazy to look back at that little 12-year-old, going in the first time, and 20 years later doing that,” said Enever of her accomplishment.
“I would never be in this position if it wasn’t for all the big wave surfers that have come before me and paved the way—especially the really brave, courageous females that have always inspired me and made me feel like I could get out there and give it a crack,” said Enever.
The previous honor was held by Andrea Moller from January 2016 when she paddled into a 42 foot wave at Peʻahi, Maui.
Moller, an internationally recognized waterwomen, pioneer of big wave surfing, and respected paramedic, held the record for seven years. She was the first woman to paddle into a wave at Pe’ahi, the first woman to catch a wave in the prestigious Eddie Aikau big wave contest, and an advocate for equality and progression in big wave surfing.
Laura, who is 31 years old and from North Narrabeen in Australia, spent eight years competing on the WSL Championship Tour, before fully immersing herself in big wave surfing, tackling some of the biggest and scariest waves in the world. Her accomplishment is a testament to the women pushing the limits of what’s possible and breaking new ground in the world of surfing.
Enever’s World Record adds to an already stellar surfing career. She was the ISA Junior World Champion and Triple Crown Rookie of the Year in 2008, and World Junior Champion in 2009. In 2011, Enever qualified for the WSL Championship Tour, where she consistently finished in the Top 10. She has gone on to compete in WSL Big Wave events and push the limits of big wave surfing.
The WSL Science Team, led by Michal Pieszk, Senior Research and Development Engineer of the Kelly Slater Wave Company (KSWC), collaborated on the analysis of the largest waves ridden in the Paddle-In category during the 2022/23 WSL Big Wave Record Chase season. The team used a range of wave-measuring techniques using video footage, detailed information about the site, the location of the videographers and location of the wave, to determine the wave height
Several frames from the video footage were extracted and geometrically corrected based on camera positions and angles. Using known objects such as jet skis and actual measurements of Enever’s body geometry, it was possible to calibrate the images for conversion from pixels to feet. The location of the trough and crest of the wave was determined from analysis of the video from two different angles.
Previous World Record and Current World Records
- Largest Wave Surfed (Paddle) – Female
- [New]: Laura Enever, 43.6 feet, “Outer Reef,” Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi on Jan. 22, 2023
- [Previous]: Andrea Moller, 42 feet, Peʻahi, Maui, Hawaiʻi in January 2016
- Largest Wave Surfed (Paddle) – Male: Aaron Gold, 63 feet, Peʻahi, Maui, Hawaiʻi on Jan. 15, 2016
- Largest Wave Surfed (Unlimited) – Male: Sebastian Steudtner, 86 feet, Nazaré,Portugal on Oct. 29, 2020
- Largest Wave Surfed (Unlimited) – Female: Maya Gabeira, 73.5 feet, Nazaré, Portugal on Feb. 11, 2020