Surfer Girl

Maya Gabeira is Making Some Serious Waves

Written by: Ashley Lee | Photography by: Dove Shore
The beach may not be San Diego’s hottest spot during December, but these days, it’s a work space and a playground for Maya Gabeira. Big wave surfers rely on winter storms for swells, and, as the professional athlete and model who currently holds the world record for the biggest wave surfed by a woman at a whopping 45 feet, this “superwoman of surfing” is just gearing up for her primary season.

“I want to be the best, most well-rounded big wave surfer I can be,” says Gabeira. “For that, I need time, more experience and to practice on those big days that only happen a few times a year. I want to surf in the Eddie Aikau, Waimea Bay, one day.”

Gabeira is treading quickly toward her career goals. At age 23, she has already won a Teen Choice Award and an ESPY for Best Female Action Sports Athlete, along with being the first person to ever take home the Billabong XXL Women’s Overall Performance award four years in a row — a title she doesn’t plan to give up anytime soon.

Gabeira was born in Rio de Janeiro to a family flooded with South American fame. Her mother is one of Brazil’s top fashion designers, and her father is a well-known politician. With a rebellious spirit during her adolescence, she found refuge in the waves regardless of the fact that the sport didn’t come easy when she began at age 14. “I chose surfing because that’s what all my friends and ex-boyfriend were doing at the time,” Gabeira says. “I just followed their footsteps. Surfing gave me the motivation to wake up early, become fit and live a very healthy and ocean-oriented lifestyle that I absolutely love.”

After sharpening her surf skills on the beaches of Hawaii and collecting championships atop waters all over the world, Gabeira recently relocated to Cardiff by the Sea, in North San Diego County. “I was drawn to the area because it’s central to all my traveling and it’s where my industry is the strongest,” says Gabeira, who can be spotted conquering the coastlines of Trestles in San Clemente and Blacks Beach in La Jolla. “California is so interesting. There is so much to do and see, and the lifestyle is amazing.”

When she’s not in the water, Gabeira stays fit with 6-mile runs and yoga on the sand. Though she currently carries the crown as the best female athlete in this sport dominated by men, Gabeira’s goal is to be the best ever, period. Her perspective on successful surf competition as being against the water itself instead of the other female athletes aiming to catch waves as well, is quickly turning her into a promising role model for young women.

“Am I a role model? That’s a lovely thing to say,” she humbly replies to the suggestion. “I just try to lead through my attitude and not so much by my words. I would love to see the next generation follow their dreams in whatever area that may be. If I could tell people anything, it is to realize that if you work hard enough, nothing is impossible. Nothing.”

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