The World Surf League (WSL) announced that Maya Gabeira won the 2020 XXL Biggest Wave Award and set a new world record for the largest wave ever surfed by a woman.
As part of the Red Bull Big Wave Awards (BWA), the judging panel validated Gabeira's ride as the new Guinness World Record title holder for the largest wave surfed (unlimited) - female.
"This wave was during the [WSL Nazaré Tow Surfing] contest, and although I say I'm not a competitive person, I was very in the zone and braver than I usually am on this day," said Gabeira.
"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."
Gabeira's record-setting wave measured 73.5 feet (22.4 meters), besting her own previous world record - 68 feet.
She broke the record at the infamous big-wave surf break, Praia do Norte in Nazaré, Portugal, on February 11, 2020, as part of the WSL's inaugural Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge event.
A Historic Ride
Although the men's and women's divisions are separate for this category, Gabeira's ride also beat the men's XXL Biggest Wave, which was won by Kai Lenny and measured 70 feet.
"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," continued Gabeira.
"That, to me, was something I had dreamed of years ago but not as something realistic. There was no representation for me to believe that it was possible but to see that happen is incredible."
"This is seen as an extremely male-dominated sport, so to have a woman be able to represent that is quite rare."
In one of BWA history's closest races, Gabeira's ride measured only 2-to-3 feet larger than Justine Dupont's nominated wave from the same competition day on February 11.
Dupont's second nominated wave took place on November 13, 2019, also in Nazaré, Portugal.
"I am a big fan of Justine (Dupont) and what she has been doing at Nazaré," said Gabeira.
"I think it's one of the reasons I kept pushing myself. I was on the edge of retiring a few years ago, and then I saw her evolution and thought I have to keep up for a few more years."
"I really didn't expect to go any bigger or anything like that, but I kept riding and enjoying my time at Nazaré, and that wave was quite special, although it was quite terrifying as well."
Despite measuring only a few feet shy of the 2020 XXL Biggest Wave Award and the world record, Dupont celebrates an incredible season with wins in the Ride of the Year and Performance of the Year categories.
2020 Red Bull Big Wave Awards | Winners
Ride of the Year
Justine Dupont (Seignosse, France) at Nazaré, Leiria, Portugal on February 11, 2020
Billy Kemper (Haiku, Hawaii) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on January 23, 2020
XXL Biggest Wave
Maya Gabeira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) at Nazaré, Leiria, Portugal on February 11, 2020
Kai Lenny (Paia, Hawaii) at Nazaré, Leiria, Portugal on February 11, 2020
Performance of the Year
Justine Dupont (Seignosse, France)
Kai Lenny (Paia, Hawaii)
Biggest Paddle of the Year
Paige Alms (Haiku, Hawaii) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on December 12, 2019
Eli Olson (Haleiwa, Hawaii) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on December 12, 2019
Wipeout of the Year
Keala Kennelly (Honolulu, Hawaii) at Jaws, Maui, Hawaii on December 12, 2019