On January 18, 2018, renowned Brazilian big wave surfer Maya Gabeira charged the mountainous peaks of Praia do Norte in Nazaré, Portugal. According to videographers, oceanographers and academics, her wave clocked in at 80 feet.
Let’s take a moment to marinade on that number.
That’s eight stories tall…when the rest of us are shaking in our boots over 10 feet, multiply that by eight and that’s what Gabeira rode. The hard-charging waterwoman matched Garrett McNamara’s November 2017 record of 80-feet at the same break.
Aside from being one of the most decorated and pioneering females in the big wave arena, her 2018 wave was not Gabeira’s first record-breaker. In 2009, she broke the record for biggest wave ridden by a female at Dungeons in South Africa clocking a 46-foot ride, nearly half the size of her Nazare wave.
With her mind focused on riding the world’s biggest waves, Gabeira set her sights on Nazare’s massive size-holding capabilities, a wave that nearly ended the young charger’s life.
In 2013, Gabeira nearly drowned after wiping out and losing consciousness on a massive wave at Nazare.
“It almost ended my career with the complications I had with injuries and to come back and be able to surf, it was already my dream,” said Gabeira.
After five years of dedication, recovery and training coupled with her passion for big waves, Gabeira put pedal to the metal and caught a massive mountain of water–a wave large enough to put her in the Guinness Book of World Records.
When Gabeira approached the Guiness Book of World Records, they referred her back to the WSL for certification.
But despite reaching out, the WSL gave very vague and inconsistent responses to Gabeira’s amazing accomplishment. Every few weeks, Gabeira followed up with the WSL and still no confirmation of any progress. Frustrated with the organization’s lack of support or responsiveness, Gabeira let them know her intentions and in August 2018, started her petition.
Although, the organization did at the last minute ask her to present at the annual Big Wave Awards this past April for the Men’s Big Wave Award of the Year. To add more salt to the wound, during the women’s division, none of her clips were displayed.
“I had to hold my tears, breathe and go back stage to then present the men’s division,” said Gabeira. “I was kind of really baffled because I flew all the way to LA to not see any of my waves [displayed], to be celebrating the winter and pretend I wasn’t participating in the winter. While all my [male] peers had all their waves they rode on the same day exposed and won awards and records.”
After multiple backstage apologies from the WSL’s director post-awards, Gabeira sat down with him where he reiterated the WSL’s interest and dedication to her accomplishment. But radio silence from the WSL soon followed…again.
With the WSL’s recent leadership falling under CEO Sophie Goldschmidt, Gabeira was hoping this would propel the industry and open a new chapter for women in the sport. The WSL gave this response via email:
“We have a huge amount of respect for all our big wave surfers. We have been in active discussions with Guinness for some time on the topic of reviewing Maya’s incredible ride from Nazare earlier this year for submission, and look forward to continuing to celebrate men’s and women’s big wave surfing with an announcement soon.”
The WSL got back to me within hours with this response, however, when I asked them specifically why the process took as long as it did and why the WSL couldn’t give Maya a solid answer, I was told…(am I surprised?)–> all they could say was just that.
“I don’t know if it’s just a lack of professionalism or if it’s just a lack of care for an athlete,” said Gabeira. “It’s my job, it’s what I’ve done for many many years of my life and to not take that seriously, it’s extremely disrespectful and it really hurts.”
To no surprise, after Gabeira’s petition launched and the world became aware of what was going on behind the bro-curtains of the surf industry, the WSL now crowds her inbox. :)
Best of luck, Maya. We are rooting for you! <3
Check out Maya’s video: