Updated: Apr 11
Billabong’s elegant and understated series, “Know the Feeling,” follows Laura Enever as she travels around the world to tell the story of the “sisterhood of the sea,” connecting with female surfers in countries like Sri Lanka, Morocco, China and Japan.
“Know the Feeling is about the people we meet who make everywhere feel like home,” according to Billabong.
The project explores the lives of female surfers from a new angle, in order to address the shared culture and community that is accessible to women, rather than solely the sport's events and competitions.
“It’s a love that we can count on, a sense of belonging we share through the sea,” writes Billabong, “one that is larger than language, beyond what we own or where we have been.”
By approaching the sport from this perspective, it allows every surfer — man or woman — to relate to surf culture, whether they are just starting out or traveling on tour.
“When we’re in the water, we are all from here; we all know the feeling”
At the age of 18, after growing up in Narrabeen, NSW, Australia, Laura Enever started on the WSL World Tour and competed for 16 years. Just last year, however, she decided to quit the tour to begin working on her upcoming film, UNDONE, as well as the “Know the Feeling” series for Billabong.
“This time, it’s not about competing,” Enever said in the film. “It’s about exploring, finding new waves, meeting inspiring women, experiencing different ways of life.”
In this “Know the Feeling” installment, Enever travels to Japan.
“Few countries have had a relationship with the sea as prolific as that of Japan,” Enever said. “The country’s history and culture have been intertwined with the ocean as far back as records can trace.”
Enever describes Japan’s surf culture as “bustling, innovative and fully original.”
The film weaves together dreamy footage of beach towns just after dawn, twinkling city streets just after dusk, and numerous Japanese surf breaks — some popular, crowded and pounding, and others tucked away, smooth and serene.
“Japan has a truly special knack for making you feel simultaneously thrust into the future, while also flung far far back into the past,” Enever said.
Enever also connected with two of Japan’s professional female surfers, the first being Shino Matsuda, who at just 17 years old is posed to represent Japan in next year’s Olympic Games’ first-ever surfing competition.
Matsuda was six years old when she first started surfing. By the age of nine, she entered her first competition. Now, she travels the world competing.
“There used to be more male surfers and more competitions for men,” Matsuda told Enever in an interview. “But the number of girl surfers has increased, which is definitely inspiring [to] me.”
The two girls surfed at a beach in Chiba, where the Olympics were scheduled to be held. They also spent a day in Tokyo to try out a standing wave machine in the middle of the city, which “looked simple, but in fact proved to be … rather challenging.”
“Despite all the time in the spotlight,” Enever said, “[Matsuda] remains humble, focused, and more than anything, just wanting to surf.”
"... young, innovative women who reflect all the beauty and tradition of their country"
Next, Enever met up with one of the country’s best longboarders, Natsumi Taoka, to travel to Japan’s southernmost tip and chase a typhoon swell that was passing through. Taoka snapped her board, in the middle of their session — so she took out the longer broken half and kept surfing.
“Stylish, daring and agile, she combines all her skills into a dance among the waves that is truly a gift to observe,” Enever said of Taoka.
This film is as playful as it is thoughtful. It seeks to reconnect with some of the subtler magic of surfing, like “vending machine coffee” just before dawn patrol — things of which the sport has perhaps lost sight, on its fast track to international eminence.
Enever and her new friends were delighted to “chase a swell the old fashioned way,” after their phones lost service, for example.
The film also introduces a new generation of female surfers who are taking surf culture and making it their own.
Enever saw in Taoka and Matsuda “young, innovative women who reflect all the beauty and tradition of their country, who also happen to be shaping and redefining what the future of surfing will look like for women in Japan.”