Maya Gabeira is a Big-wave surfer on a mission
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 1 November, 2007 : – – Given her background, you’d expect Maya Gabeira to be a politician. An activist, perhaps. Or even an academic. But that’s hardly the case. The daughter of Fernando Gabeira, a famous political dissident and founder of the Brazilian Green Party, Maya has avoided the country’s turbulent politics to negotiate another equally treacherous environment: the ocean.
And it’s not your average beachbreak we’re talking about here. Maya, you’ll be intrigued to learn, is all about big waves. How big? Really freaking big. “I get this incredible adrenaline rush every time I see a rising swell,” says Maya. “There’s no way I’m gonna stay on the beach if the waves are pumping – it makes me really excited and I just gotta get out there.”
It’s this kind of attitude that led Maya to win the Women’s Best Overall Performance in the 2007 Billabong Global Big Wave Awards, bagging 5,000 bucks and a truckload of kudos in the process. For those in the know, the award is hardly a surprise, as the twenty-year-old Rio de Janeiro local has gained notoriety for riding some of the world’s hairiest waves.
Her recent roster includes all the heavy-hitters: Mavericks, Waimea, Todos Santos, as well as the horrendously sketchy and shark-infested Dungeons, in South Africa. Where does she find the courage? “Surfing big waves is reflective of your attitude towards life. I think it’s something you learn at home. My dad has a really strong character, is incredibly bright and I’ve learned a lot from him.”
If you’re familiar with the decades of Western-backed dictatorship in Latin America, you’ll know that Maya’s old man is indeed a bit of a legend. As a strong opponent of the military regime, Gabeira senior joined the armed resistance in the late sixties. The highlight of his antics was the successful kidnapping of the American ambassador to Brazil, who was eventually freed in exchange for the release of political prisoners held by the government.
Says Maya: “My dad and I are very similar. All the energy he’s put into improving the country I have as well – only I’ve been channelling it into my surfing.” Waveriding, it appears, is Maya’s version of changing the world. At least the world of female surfing: “As far as I know, there is no girl out there making a living out of riding big waves. Maybe I’ll be first one.”
Sponsored by Billabong, Red Bull and Oakley, this may very well be the case. In fact, Red Bull has even made a jet ski available so she can have a stab at tow-in surfing this coming season. Which begs the question: where is the limit? How far can women go in the masculinist world of big-wave surfing? Maya has an answer: “If I keep on training and gaining confidence, I want to tow into some giant waves at Jaws later on this year. At least that’s what I hope.”
And so do we.
Extracted from HUCK magazine, issue 07, out now.