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Biggest wave ridden by female earns new Guinness World Record at 73.5 feet

A new world record for the biggest wave ever ridden by a woman has been set by Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira. It was a monstrous wave measured at 73.5 feet at Nazare, Portugal – the same surf break where she nearly died in 2013.

The XXL Big Wave Awards, typically held in Orange County or the South Bay, were canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the World Surf League has been releasing the prestigious awards online, with Gabeira’s Guinness World Record announced Thursday, Sept. 10,  along with the woman’s Ride of the Year and Performance of the Year, which went to French surfer Justine Dupont.

Gabeira’s record-breaking wave was ridden during the WSL Nazare Tow Surfing contest on Feb. 11. It bested the previous world record of 68 feet from the same surf break, a record she also held.

“Although I say I’m not a competitive person, I was very in the zone and braver than I usually am on this day,” Gabeira said in an announcement. “I was risking more than I usually like to do. When I let go of the rope, I had a feeling it could be the one, but wasn’t sure. The speed was very high, but the noise that the wave made when it broke made me realize that this was probably the biggest wave I’d ever ridden.”

Her wave was also 3.5 feet taller than the biggest wave ridden by a male for the year: Hawaiian Kai Lenny.

“This World Record really strikes me as quite amazing because the size of the wave was measured taller than the men’s size for the winner, so it means a woman actually rode the biggest wave of the year overall,” Gabeira said. “That to me was something I had dreamed of years ago, but not as something realistic.

“This is seen as an extremely male-dominated sport,” she said, “so to have a woman be able to represent, that is quite rare.”

Gabeira nearly lost her life at Nazare, a renowned surf spot only a handful of surfers can tackle. Her wipe out was captured on camera and illustrated just how death-defying the waves can be when massive swells hit.

In a video call with WSL commentators Chris Cote and Peter Mel, when learning of this year’s award, Gabeira called the record-setting wave “special and terrifying.” It would tower over the average 5-story building.

Gabeira said she never thought she’d set a second world record, and she still needed to wrap her head around the news.

Dupont’s Ride of the Year wave came just a few feet shy of Gabeira’s record-setting wave, requiring an independent scientific team to determine the biggest wave, according to WSL. The  experts were from the WaveCo Science team, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and USC’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

Their analysis was based on video and photo imagery, camera locations, camera lens parameters and environmental conditions, including tides, sunlight, and wave set-up. They also analyzed reference points in the imagery, such as the surfers’ heights, surfboard and jet ski dimensions and estimated crouching heights, WSL officials said.

Here are the winners from all of the Red Bull Big Wave Awards categories:

RIDE OF THE YEARJustine Dupont (Seignosse, France) at Nazaré, Leiria, Portugal on Feb. 11Billy Kemper  (Haiku, Hawaii) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on Jan. 23

XXL Biggest WaveMaya Gabeira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) at Nazaré, Leiria, Portugal on Feb. 11Kai Lenny (Paia, Hawaii) at Nazaré, Leiria, Portugal on Feb. 11

PERFORMANCE OF THE YEARJustine Dupont (Seignosse, France)Kai Lenny (Paia, Hawaii)

BIGGEST PADDLE OF THE YEARPaige Alms (Haiku, Hawaii) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on Dec. 12Eli Olson (Haleiwa, Hawaii) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on Dec. 12

WIPEOUT OF THE YEARKeala Kennelly (Honolulu, Hawaii) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on Dec. 12

For more on the awards, go to:

Source: Orange County Register

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