There are goals. And then there is conquering The Right – a massive wall of water off Western Australia’s south coast.
Surfing the infamous wave took former South West Academy of Sport athlete Laura Macaulay three years of careful planning and practice.
Her preparations ranged from serious activities like CO2 tolerance breath-holding training to better handle a longer wipe-out, to getting the hang of jet-skiing out to the open water, to simply sitting and watching the wave to gain an appreciation for it.
And when she successfully ticked the feat off her bucket list, she entered the history books by becoming the first known woman to surf the slab.
The 28-year-old achieved her goal just over a year ago, but the jaw-dropping footage has only recently been released, earlier this month catapulting the Gracetown product into the national spotlight.
She has received plenty of positive attention and feedback, but it is the support received from her famous surfing family – including sister Bronte – that she most appreciates.
“I guess the thing that means the most is when the people close to you are happy for you, then that’s when you feel you’ve achieved something,” Macaulay said.
The inspiration for taking on the big barrel came after the athlete retired from competing in the World Surf League’s Qualifying Series events and wanted a goal to work towards while working as a physio in the South West.
Working to her advantage was actually a perceived flaw of hers, where she tends to surf low.
“I think it sort of suits my surfing in a way because sometimes I go too low in a normal barrelling wave.
“Because The Right draws off the reef so much, you sort of want to go low. So, I think that helped me in a way even though it is a flaw in normal surfing,” Macaulay said.
For the big wave surfer, aiming to surf The Right was about the journey.
“On the day, I didn’t feel a crazy sense of achievement or anything. I just felt I was developing and getting to surf it,” Macaulay said.
“It’s weird in that way. It’s not like you’ve just won a competition, with a really obvious high or something.
“It’s just a process and I’m learning a lot.”
Macaulay said she found that when she improved the most, it was when she was “relaxed and happy and really enjoying the process”.
“I feel like if you’re outcome orientated with winning or losing it might hold you back from improving,” Macaulay said.
“Whereas if you just enjoy the process of learning, then I think you’ll get better outcomes anyway.
“So, just enjoy the journey as it comes, and do the best you can do.”