Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira is a tiny blade on the water in the images of her record-breaking trip, cutting a line of white spray across the deep crest of the enormous gray wave rising behind her. The wave in question was 22.4 meters, the largest ever surfed by a woman, the first by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to be measured and confirmed, and a few meters greater than that surfed by her closest rival.
It is also the largest measured wave surfed by a man or a woman this year. Gabeira, who smashed her own previous 68-foot Guinness World Record, attributes her results to what she terms “taking a critical line.”
In short, she brings her board to the wildest and highest section of the wave, “where the strongest energy is, where it actually breaks.” The peaks surfed by Gabeira are ranked World Surf League size XXL (XXXL does not exist). The peaks surfed by Gabeira are rated World Surf League size XXL. The large-wave culture once attracted Hawaii and California, but Gabeira claims that the tiny Portuguese fishing village of Nazaré, where she lives and works, is home to “the world’s most amazing big waves… The speeds are amazing. You’re going so fast and the wave is building behind you; it’s a lot of water in motion, an amazing feeling, and you’re very, very present, which has alwa.”
“She broke her ankle on the third or fourth impact, was thrown off her board and unloaded an estimated 144 tons of water on top of her. Everything went black, everything went white. She lay unconscious for more than four minutes. “I was shaken to my heart,” she says. “You can’t fix it when you feel what it means to probably die. Three spinal surgeries followed, and “Three spinal surgeries followed, and Gabeira was ”
And I was in so much pain.” Two years later, she moved to Nazaré, believing that the place where she had experienced such danger was also the only place where she could recover: “I knew that just being there would motivate me to continue working on my wellbeing.
I was determined to keep trying because there was something rewarding about trying to prove myself every day, learning how to cope with my shortcomings, and not letting them deter me. She realized she had achieved her height as an athlete again after three more years. The statistical proof was given by the record ride this year: she became the first female big surfer in the record books, the first to be the first to surf in the record books.
She was the first woman to become a full-time instructor in the big waves (her current sponsors include TAG Heuer and an Australian sunscreen brand).
She was typically the only girl in the water with a surfboard in Rio, where she began surfing at 14. “It’s a path that requires a lot of interaction with men,” she says. In practice, she says, that meant she became “more reserved, tougher.”
“She worked to create herself in the water “as a partner,” always with the objective of achieving what she wanted, “which was to improve as an athlete. She relocated to Hawaii at 17 and got a job as a waitress.
She had already known that, since she had begun late, her talent was not adequate to participate in the daily tour.
She focused on big waves, partly out of “fascination with that energy, strength, strength and bravery” and partly out of cold-blooded strategy: “It was a field that a woman hadn’t even considered,” she says. “I saw an opportunity.” (Before, there were big-wave female surfers, but not on the scale of the waves that Gabeira rode.) “You have to break through those barriers and believe in things.”
It’s a trait that is easily given to a man and very hard to give to a woman. As a society, for some reason, we have a hard time just accepting and praising women for bravery,’ says Gabeira, who surfs with more anxiety than she used to, but also with a greater understanding of risk.
At 33, she is thinking five more years to move on, “but don’t tell my mom.”