Sports: Big wave surfing
Highlights: Won the 2009 ESPY award for Best Female Action Sports Athlete; surfed the biggest wave ever for a female in 2009 (45 feet); won the Billabong XXL Girls Best Overall Performance Award for a record fourth straight time in 2010
Quote: "I love being in the ocean, as well as being healthy and active. I always come in from a surf session feeling refreshed and so much better."
Fact: If Gabiera could eat lunch with any athlete or adventurer, she would choose Pele, the legendary Brazilian soccer player.
AT Point Total: 40
Some would say it takes cojones to charge down the face of a 45-foot wall of water at South Africa’s notorious, shark infested Dungeons—but they’d be wrong. Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira set the women’s world record there in 2009 for biggest wave surfed, once again reaffirming that big wave surfing isn’t just a man’s sport.
She’d just won the 2009 ESPY for Best Female Action Sports Athlete, and was on her way to her third straight Billabong XXL Award for best female performance in big wave surfing, a sport so dangerous there are only handful of people, let alone women, who perform at her level.
Gabeira has ridden the world’s monster waves, from Teahupoo in Tahiti to Hawaii’s Jaws, but she only first picked up a board at 14, and got serious about the sport when visiting Hawaii at age 17. Now just 25, the Brazilian phenom won her fifth Billabong XXL in 2012 and is poised to break even more records.