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Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira made history earlier this year when she surfed a wave that was 22.4 meters high, but her unprecedented achievement is only now being recognized. This week she was awarded the official Guinness World Record for Highest Wave Surfed – Unlimited (female).
Gabeira rode the wave in the very first Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge, hosted by the World Surf League (WSL) on February 11th on Praia do Norte beach in Portugal. She had already held the existing world record in this category after previously surfing a 68-foot wave in the same location in 2018.
“Setting the world record has been a dream of mine for many years,” Gabeira told Guinness World Records. “Getting a second is a little crazy – I have to wrap my head around it.” Her performance also earned her the WSL 2020 XXL Biggest Wave Award for women. Specifically, the men’s Biggest Wave Award winner Kai Lenny surfed a 70-foot wave. 3 feet shorter than Gabeira.
The delay in confirming Gabeira’s records as official was partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, but also due to some confusion over the criteria for measuring waves and the fact that Gabeira’s co-finalist Justine Dupont was so close that the gap was so small between them was considered almost too close to call.
The fact that the surf at Gabeira and Dupont was scrutinized so closely, but not the men’s event, was reportedly cited as evidence of sexism in sport The Atlantic’s Maggie Martens. “While it is remarkable that the WSL is now paying male and female participants the same prize money and inviting women to compete alongside men in the towing competition in February, the league seemed to gloss over a moment that fans rarely get to celebrate: a woman head to head winning in sports with a man, “she wrote.
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In 2013, Gabeira was injured when her board crashed, leading to comments from her male colleagues that she did not have the skills required to surf the waves in Nazaré. So this second world record is proof that it certainly is does have what it takes to ride the biggest waves in the world – and the best men in their sport.
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