A Surfer’s Story: Maya Gabeira Sets A World-Record With 73.50 Foot Wave

Will Mahan, Sports Editor

This past week, it was revealed that Brazillian surfer Maya Gabeira did the unthinkable. Surpassing her original record for the largest wave surfed by a woman, Gabeira broke her own record again this February, with an astounding 73.50 foot wave at Pria de Norte in Nazare, Portugal.

The confirmation of the wave size came from the University of Southern California, WaveCo Science Team, and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, who took 7 consecutive months to review the wave’s footage, precisely calculating the wave height. They did this by using Gabeira’s own height measurements as a baseline, comparing her height with that of the wave.

Despite being in the moment, as Gabeira rode towards the white-water she came to a realization. Her wave was no ordinary catch.

“The speed was very high but the noise that the wave made when it broke made me realise that this was probably the biggest wave I’d ever ridden,” Gabeira said.

The wave Gabeira rode was in-fact a world record. But setting records is nothing new for Maya Gabeira. In 2018, the now 33-year old super-star set the original world record for the largest wave surfed by a woman, with a 68 foot giant at Nazare. In 2020, she has managed to outdo her own world record, while making an astonishing accomplishment in this year’s cbdMD XXL tournament.

“This world record really strikes me as quite amazing because the size of the wave was taller than the men’s size this year, Gabeira stated. “It means a woman actually rode the biggest wave of the year overall and that to me is crazy.”

The biggest wave rode by a man in this year’s tournament was an impressive 70 feet, caught by Hawiian surfer Kai Lenny.

“What made the wave even more special, was that there were zero expectations,” Kenny stated. “I wasn’t going out there saying, I need to catch the best wave I’ve ever ridden. I already had an amazing glassy-paddle session, now here’s an opportunity to make up for the waves that I didn’t catch.” 

Despite Kai Lenny’s impressive feat, no feat quite caught the world’s attention like the one by Maya Gaberia.

The unprecedented display by Gabeira, can be attributed to her fearless approach to surfing. Known for her taste in big waves, Gabeira has always pushed the boundaries of the sport of surfing. 

In 2013, her fearlessness led to a massive wipeout that left her unconscious. Luckily however, she was rescued by fellow surfer Carlos Burle who helped save her life. 

“She was gone for about five minutes,” Carlos said. “I couldn’t find her anywhere. Then I saw her and raced towards her.” Fortunately, Carlos was able to use an armlock to safely bring her to shore. Unfortunately however, the moment had taken a physical toll on the young surfer.

Maya Gabeira’s recovery took four years of rehabilitation with three intensive back surgeries utilized. As a result of the injury, Gabeira lost all of her professional sponsors while dealing with a serious bout of anxiety and depression. Gabeira also received harsh criticism from the professional surfing community, causing her to face a substantial amount of emotional trauma.

“For many years after the accident, I think up until 2018, I was strongly trying to overcome my trauma and at times surfing wasn’t as much fun and there wasn’t a lot of pleasure involved in it,” Gabeira said. “It was a lot about being exposed to it and enduring the discomfort.” 

However, Maya Gabeira’s accident only continued to motivate her to reach her true potential. Gabeira spent the coming years, completing breath-hold trainings to better prepare herself for future wipeouts. 

“The fact I put my body back together again to a high level of performance was the touch of confidence I needed to overcome the fear and ultimately face those really big days,” Gabeira said. “I got to the point where I was super fit and I trusted my mind, knowing I was now a thousand times more prepared than in 2013.”

After five years of hard-work and unrivaled determination, Gabeiera did the unthinkable, setting a world record for the largest wave surfed by a woman. Today, her spirit remains as intact as ever, as she once again proves to young surfers around the world that hard-work and determination do not go unnoticed.