Maya Gabeira cemented her place as the greatest female big wave surfer in the world in 2018. On Oct. 2, she earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the 68-foot monster she rode in January at Nazare, Portugal, which is famed for producing some of the world’s most daunting, treacherous waves.
The feat also won her the first-ever World Surf League Women’s XXL Biggest Wave Award. The journey to this place hasn’t been easy for the Rio de Janeiro native, who nearly drowned while surfing six years ago and fought for years to establish a separate big wave category for women (the men’s record is held by another Brazilian, Rodrigo Koxa, at 80 feet).
Even after accomplishing her feat at Nazare back, it took many months of lobbying, including a change.org petition, before it was officially certified as a world record.
Despite suffering from asthma, Gabeira has long dominated her version of the sport, winning previous Big Wave awards in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012 and the 2009 ESPY for Best Female Action Sport Athlete.