To celebrate International Women’s Day and as the first in our series of Women Making Waves we talk to Maya Gabeira, the ‘Super Woman of Surfing’, who holds the world record for surfing a 68 foot monster wave in Nazare, Portugal.
Q. Many world-famous athletes begin their sport very early in life, but you began surfing at 14. What drew you to surfing?
A. A boyfriend and our group of friends. They all were passionately surfers and I picked up interest as I didn't find much joy in waiting for long hours in the sand while they had so much fun in the waves.
Q. What inspires you about the oceans?
A. Freedom, an energy that is pretty unique. You go in the ocean and that salty water cleanses everything away. I love that. It's so refreshing and re-energising.
Q. We saw that you were interested in music and dance. Has this has affected your surfing style and what’s on your playlist?
A. For sure it helped me because of the balance. I was a dedicated dancer until 12 years old so I had body awareness. I love a mix of things. From David Bowie, to jAY z , Cardi B, Billie Eilish, RHCP , Billie Whiters ... its eclectic.
Q. We read that you supplement your regular training with yoga and Pilates. Which kind of training do you find most beneficial for your sport?
A. Particularly for my sport I find gym functional and strengthening training + pool for breath hold training the most beneficial combination.
Q. Why did you decide to take on giant waves?
A. The challenge, the beauty of the ocean when big. The energy of being out there with those giant waves.
Q. As a big-wave surfer, you’ve had multiple injuries and face life and death every day. How did you face your fears and come back from your near-death experience at Nazare in 2013?
A. With time and training. That's the only way for me. You keep working towards becoming fit again, and give yourself time to build your confidence again. One day it naturally happens that you reach a point where you are ready to perform under pressure again.
Q. Your 2018 Guinness World Record was not immediately recognized by the World Surf League as there was no women’s big-wave surfing category at that time. What steps did you take to secure recognition?
A. The most important was definitely the petition we created on change.org urging people to sign and pressure the WSL to create that female record. Once that went public it started gaining moment and the WSL felt pressured enough to make a move on it.
Q. There are many ocean-based non-profit organizations. Like One Ocean Beauty, you chose to support Oceana. Why did you choose this non-profit in particular?
A. I love the fact that they are directly affecting the laws. Working in DC as their headquarters and consistently working towards securing real changes in the government to protect our oceans. That is needed.
Q. You’re quoted as saying “It’s important for us to widen our possibilities. Where the space for women doesn’t yet exist, it must be created.” Your story is not only inspirational for surfers but for women in general. What drives you to constantly strive to excel at your sport? What advice would you share with women who are facing what seem to be insurmountable challenges?
A. Just keep pushing. As women we are constantly doubted and judged especially in male dominated fields. We gotta take that and turn into ways of evolving. Take the difficulties and turn it in your favour. I wouldn't be the surfer I am today if I didn't have all the haters and doubters along the way. So I feel lucky in that sense.