After Maya Gabeira’s near-drowning in Portugal, the world sat up in their seats to take a closer look at the girl who tames monsters.
On Monday, a storm called the “St. Jude’s Storm” blew in from the Atlantic and ran directly into Maya and a crew of wild men. Maya’s tow partner, Carlos Burle, towed her into behemoth of a left. She hit a few bumps, getting more air with each hit as her speed increased. While even she doesn’t know for sure, it looks as though her ankle broke on the third bump – and that’s where the trouble really started. After two hold downs, a third blew out her life jacket and dragged her deep down. With little-to-no air in her lungs, she struggled to the surface, where Burle was frantically searching for her. He found her once, but wasn’t able to get her on the back of the ski. Instead, Gabeira grabbed the rope and hung on for as long as she could. Eventually, though, she blacked out and let go. When her partner found her again, he leaped off and grabbed her lifeless body, pulled her through the pounding shore break, started CPR on her, and saved her life. Then he turned around and rode what might be the biggest wave ever ridden.
Maya’s an interesting woman. Unlike most other professional surfers, she didn’t grow up surfing. When she was 17, she travelled from her native Brazil to Hawaii, and fell in love with surfing. Since then, the 26-year-old has amassed five Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards and an ESPY that named her the best female action-sports athlete. She also lays claim to the biggest wave ever ridden by a woman: forty-five feet (Dungeons, South Africa), which, from the looks of it, is much smaller than the wave that nearly took her life on October 28th. She’s faced adversity from the ocean and critics alike, but one thing is for sure: the brown-eyed girl from Brazil will undoubtably paddle out again. And I can’t wait to see it.