In a recently-released interview with Graham Bensinger, big wave surfer Maya Gabeira responded to several old-ish public criticisms levied at her from surf luminaries Laird Hamilton and Kelly Slater.
Bensinger started off the edited segment (a soundbite of a larger profile interview you can find here) asking Gabeira bluntly about Hamilton’s comments to CNN that she “didn’t have the skill to be surfing in those conditions.” For reference, Hamilton was being interviewed in 2013 about Carlos Burle’s big wave world record when he commented on Gabeira’s near death while surfing giant Nazare during the same swell. The accident left her with a broken leg and she had to be resuscitated on the beach.
“I was heartbroken,” she said of Hamilton’s take. “First you’re fragile, you just almost died, you have a broken leg, you have pain everywhere, and you just feel beat up. To say something like that when you know someone is fragile or hurting — I don’t know if it’s the right timing.”
Gabeira gained a fan here. She comes off supremely confident in the life she’s lived and openly cops to any mistakes she’s made, answering Bensinger’s direct (and often frosty) line of questions with an ease born from years of self-examination. She went on to talk about the insecurities the issue with Hamilton raised, and then addressed similar criticism from Kelly Slater about surfing Teahupoo during a swell in 2011 that almost took her life. Slater told her she was going to get herself and others killed via direct message on Twitter.
“I’m okay with it,” she said of the criticism. “They had their points. They could have passed it on to me differently. It was a different era; women were treated differently. Back then it was okay, it wasn’t as discussed our role and place in society. I think a lot has changed. It was what it was. It made me who I am and I’m okay with it.”
Gebeira has, of course, since set a world record at Nazaré and returned to surf Teahupoo, so she probably chose a career path that suited her. She covered a number of topics with Bensinger, like her relationship with Sebastian Steudtner, sexism in surfing, the stress of solidifying her world record, her journalist father, and more. You can find the full interview here.