The Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira now holds the Guinness World Record for “largest wave surfed (unlimited) – female,” the Guinness World Record website reported October 1st, surfing a 68-foot wave “from trough to crest at the big-wave break down known as Praia do Norte in Nazare, Portugal, on 18 January 2018.”
But Gabeira had to break into the category for the women’s category in both Guinness’ and Surf League because up until now there has only been just the category themselves and they’ve always been won by men.
“It was essential to have a separate record,” Gabeira said.
But for Gabeira it was even more of an accomplishment as a come-back debut. She had been trying to “establish” a category for the women’s big surf since 2013 when on October 29 of that year she had her brush with death at the very same place along Portugal’s “magical coastline,” home to the monster waves at Nazare, when she fell off her board “after breaking her ankle on the third or fourth bump” going down the face of a wave she said was bigger than any she’d ever ridden before, and nearly drown.
Maya sits with her broken ankle propped up and speaks about her experience in good spirits, and agrees with her teammate who helped rescue her, she would do it all over again.
And she does. In 2016 Gabeira moved to Nazare and continued to train. In winter, “when the waves at the notoriously difficult surf spot are at their largest,” it was this winter, she said, “was the first season she felt fully recovered.”
On that Jan. 18, after realizing she had probably surfed the biggest wave of her life, she asked Miguel Moreira, a professor at the University of Lisbon’s Department of Sport and Health, to measure it. But for it to be an official record, Ms. Gabeira needed the World Surf League to certify it.New York Times; October 2, 2018
Now Gabeira has to surf an entirely different wave and going against the tide of breaking into biggest waves. She flew to Los Angeles, to the headquarters for the World Surf League to get support to certify her wave and was left waiting months with no answer.
So she took it to the people of the surfing community, to the public, and “started a petition on change.org asking fans to support the request.”
Her petition reads in part: “But many months later, there appears to be no progress and my emails have gone unanswered. I’m not sure what’s going on, (but there are definitely some people who don’t like the idea of women surfing the biggest waves.) Anyways, perhaps I haven’t been able to scream loud enough? With your voice, though, I might just be heard.”
Maya’s petition, according to the site, “made change with 18, 865 supporters!”
“It worked,” the NYT’s says. And next to the lighthouse we see in the videos, “overlooking the giant waves,” Maya received her awards for being first female to surf a 68-foot monster wave.
“It’s important to widen our possibilities,” she said. “Where the space for women doesn’t yet exist, it must be created.”