Maya Gabeira Surfs Biggest Wave by a Female Surfer…Gets Blown Off by WSL

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.

8-0, people.

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.

“Since 2013, I have been trying to bring the idea that we should have a women’s world record,” said Gabeira. “I started talking about it through emails with The Big Wave Awards, which, a couple years back, was bought out by the World Surf League. Since 2013, I have had very vague responses on it…nothing was clear at all.”

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.

Photo Courtesy of: Stephanie Johnes Maya would go.

Photo Courtesy of: Alex Laurel
Maya would go.

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.

“I just want this [record] to be established because I think it’s important for women–it’s always been to me, at least” said Gabeira. “When Garrett [McNamara] discovered Nazare, it’s always left such a big impression on me to be able to see somebody credited with “The biggest wave ever” and have a number on it. Being in a sport that’s very subjective, it was something that I got attached to. I just want to finish it off so the next person doesn’t have to make it all happen from the beginning. They can just have the category established, surf a bigger wave and break the record and BOOM–it’s registered.”

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:

 

Patrolling the Dawn, Vol. 2

February 25, 2016 // Dana Point, California //

Off-shore winds lightly rattled my windows while crawling out of bed and rubbing my puffy eyes to the sound of a 5:30 a.m. alarm. My board was already tucked in my car the night before, just needed to throw my wetsuit in the trunk, in case I decided to actually paddle out into the forecasted huge surf. :)

The view from Strand’s parking lot made any question in my mind about paddling out a definitive ‘no.’ Large sets could be seen from the top of the stairs rolling through, lurching and then mercilessly pounding the sandbars.

Later that morning, for the first time in seven years, the 31st Annual Quiksilver Eddie Aikau big wave invitational was held at Waimea Bay on O’ahu’s North Shore.

I CONFESS: I’m so glad I brought my camera.

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Be Nice, Wedge

Wedge always makes for some glorious wipeouts and plenty of jaw dropping fun. As opposed to Trestles, Swamis or Rincon’s perfect shape and long shoulders set as the stereotypical California wave, Wedge is well-known for it’s beastly crappy shape and carnage. One human munching machine after the next marches through to consume the few who dare. However, every once in a while, Wedge’s all-too familiar jaws loosen and a couple of lucky souls find escape hatches/rides of their lives…when they’re not risking them.

As opposed to my last entry dedicated to “carnage,” it’s good to see the positive in all things…even Wedge.

The ‘Oh Shit’ Files-Vol. 2: Hurricane Norbert

Storm patterns have turned my weekends into glorious photo bliss coupled with daily surfaris up the coast. A few weeks ago, Hurricane Norbert graced our coastline with waves aplenty and warm water temps that I will surely be dreaming about six months from now. The category 3 hurricane veered up the baja coast and onto the inland southwestern region of the U.S. and delivered a much-needed dose of rain …now if only he swung a little more west, California’s serious drought problem might have been temporarily staved.

Save that water people!!

Until then, my journey plopped me in front of Newport’s finest carnage-inducing break: Wedge. Whether you surf, sponge or skin it at Orange County’s premier balls-to-the-wall sandbar slab, Wedge will do more than ‘kick your ass.’ It will turn you inside out, grind you in sand and spit whats left of you out onto the shoreline.

It might be wise to seek some sage advice from a seasoned pro or local before setting a toe in the water. I wonder who would be considered Wedge’s ‘Turtle’….brah….or would that be ‘bro’…?

Either way at Wedge,“…you’re gonna get drilled.”

#HurricaneMarie

If you were held captive inside an office like me during one of the biggest swells in 20 years on August 27th, 2014, your only outlet was: ###SoCiAlMeDiA.### As I arrived to work a bit embittered, random Facebook, Instagram and Twitter checks ensued. With every epic media update, my stomach twinged, my jaw dropped and mouthed in the stereotypical surfer fashion: “No waaay.”

I’ve never felt like such a social media stalker as I watched thick wedgey peaks plow through all corners of the California coast.

*Repeatedly bangs forehead against desk while the drone of the computer mocks all senses*

Some popular hashtags:

  • #hurricanemarie
  • #hurricanemarie2014
  • #bigwednesday
  • #thewedge
  • #waveporn
  • #purpleblob
  • #newportbeach

Despite the fact that I didn’t shoot the coveted Wedge pumping out 30 foot walls or Newport Point doing it’s best Pipeline impersonation, I managed to squeeze in some quick photos of certain spots before and after work…sans carnage…sadly.

The line, yes there was a LINE, to get onto the Newport peninsula was comparable to the city’s popular Fourth of July or Christmas parades. My terrific ‘love’ for crowds and parallel parking combined with the setting sun left me in a time crunch, so after one U-turn , my wheels were rolling towards Laguna and Dana Point. Newport be damned.

After narrowly escaping a park ranger’s citation (but not her lecture about possibly killing an endangered pocket mouse), the sun set over the corduroy-ed Pacific and I finally felt like my freelancer-self, again.

I’m alive!! I said, as I skipped to my car with blurry photos in tow, the park ranger glaring behind me.

Big Wednesday 2014 not only woke up the Pacific, but also reminded me of my passions that no amount of social media or any computer/smart phone can replicate.