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Carlos Burle saves Maya Gabeira’s life, surfs biggest wave ever

Carlos Burle just rode the biggest wave ever. And, he he did it after saving Maya Gabeira’s life. The two Brazilians were surfing Portuguese ridiculously-big wave spot Nazaré, when Maya failed to negotiate a bump, snapped her ankle and went under. Fast forward five minutes and Carlos plucked her from the water, were she was floating face down. She was revived on the beach.

Once Carlos was sure Maya was making a recovery, he jetted back into the lineup. He rode the last wave of the day, and it was perhaps the biggest chunk of moving water ever surfed. Stab illuminated his phone as he was walking out of the hospital, having visited Maya. Carlos speaks good English. Obvs it’s his second language, but his English style helps tell a more dramatic story…

Interview by Craig Jarvis

Stab: Stopped shaking, Carlos?
Carlos: I’m good. Maya is good too. That’s the most important thing. It was a crazy day. I nearly lost my friend, Maya. It was terrible. I don’t think I’ve been so scared in my whole life. She has a broken ankle but she’s alive.

What happened? I towed her into this wave and it was so big man. She hit this bump but she managed to ramp over it, and then she hit a second bump and ramped it as well, but when she hit the third bump she didn’t manage to jump it and just slammed into it. She broke her ankle then and there. Then she got caught inside by a giant wave and she disappeared.

Woah. Man, she was gone for about five minutes. I couldn’t find her anywhere. I was so scared. I didn’t want to lose my friend, you know? Then I saw her and raced towards her. There were these huge waves just breaking on us and over us, and she missed the sled. She was weak and she couldn’t grab on and we were getting pounded. I wanted to her to get the rope, or the sled. She couldn’t manage. Then she disappeared again.

No! I lost her man. I couldn’t find her. It was the worst situation I have ever been in. We were on the left side, heading for the shorebreak and it was so big, the biggest shorebreak you have ever seen in your life. Then I saw her again but this time she was floating face down. She was heading for the rocks. It was terrible. The worst situation I have ever faced. I raced up to her, jumped off the ski and grabbed her. I couldn’t let her go.


Maya might just be the most badass woman in surfing. Bravo for holding on.

What did you do? I grabbed her in this position I learned from the lifeguards in Hawaii. Got her from behind and put her in an armlock, keeping her head out of the water. We went through the Nazare shorebreak like that.

You left the ski? Yes. I wasn’t worried about the ski at that stage.

Did it just wash you in? It was so strong. The waves were so big and it was a shorebreak. We got slammed. So scary. We got lucky. I got lucky. We got to the beach. I don’t know how, but we made it to the beach. They started administering CPR immediately, and she coughed up a bucket load of water and she started breathing. Then they took her away in the ambulance. I was shaking. I’m not the best guy in these situations you know. I know the ocean, but I wasn’t expecting this. I was in shock and so totally scared.

You also caught the biggest wave of the day, maybe the biggest wave ever caught in the history of surfing. The tractor got my ski out, and we went back to the harbour, and everyone was telling us that it was so bad now, that the wind was on and that there were huge currents ripping through it, but I knew that there would be a window. I knew that the wind would drop and a chance would come. I was with Pedro Scooby and I wanted to get a few waves as well. I told him to wait, that something was going to happen. It did. It was a mix of good timing, fate and all that stuff together. I caught the last wave of the day.

How many waves did you catch? Just the one! It was the only wave I got.

It was a monster. How did it feel? It went on forever. I didn’t just race for the shoulder you know, I wanted to surf the wave properly. I didn’t go left because that goes to the shorebreak and I was finished with the shorebreak for the day, so I went right. I surfed the wave, and it broke. Some of the really big ones on that side of the canyon don’t break.

They don’t count. No, they don’t count. If they don’t break they’re not waves, they’re swells. This wave broke. It eventually caught me, and I lost my board and had to swim to the channel. I got picked up by Garrett.

Did it feel like The Big One? Yes. There was so much room to move on the wave. So much space above me and below me.

It might have been the biggest wave ever ridden! Have you seen the vision? Yes. If you do that test, when you get a whole bunch of surfers stacked one on top of another, it looks like it might be one of the biggest ever. I don’t want to be the one who calls it. It’s hard to tell. Someone else can tell me how big it was (laughs).

Think it might have been 100 foot? I don’t know – it’s not impossible. There was a lot of space on that wave. I don’t know how big it was. It was bigger than Garrett’s wave last year; that we can see clearly. Whatever the case or the size I am just very lucky, I’m happy to have been in the spot at the time. We have Garrett to thank. He introduced the big wave world to Nazare. He’s happy to share his knowledge as well, which is great. Garrett’s the man.

Did it get weird out there? At one stage there was a bit of shouting and screaming. Everyone was so excited you know, and I was just shouting back at them, telling them that it’s just another big day, that everyone had to stay focused. Eventually everyone settled down.

Maybe you surfed the biggest wave, like, ever! This is a big deal! What does that do to you? I’m not going to change man. I’m just going to carry on with my life and do the things that make me happy. I tell you what made me happy was talking and laughing with Maya in the hospital. She told me that she knew that she was dying and that she felt happy. That she was dying happy. I told her that she might have been happy, but I was way more happy that she didn’t die. She is my friend. She trains hard and she’s passionate. I would have been very depressed if she had died. She was laughing and she was crying in the hospital. It’s been a very emotional day for everyone. I must say that all the boys in the water did well. There were a bunch of guys with Maya, like Sylvio Mancusi, Rodrigo Koxa, Felipe “Gordo” Cesarano, Hugo Vau, Eric Rebiere, Pedro Scooby, Andrew Cotton and Garrett Macnamara. All legends.

Well done on surviving the day. What a day! Records! Drama! Survival! Yeah. We’re alive.

  • Henrique Da Rocha Gomes

    what a hero

    • John Dove

      Which part is so heroic?…

      After a bunch of unsuccessful passes at picking Maya up, including the one where she drowns while he drags her underwater, he then gets off the jetski INTO STANDING WATER to walk his unconscious tow partner to lifeguards who perform CPR. Then he caught a big mushburger that hardly broke. Congrats.

      • bigbudah

        seriously dude? regardless of a few mistakes he made when he was trying to save her, he ultimately saved her life. If you were in the same position, the heroic thing to do would be to not do anything..

        • John Dove

          Sure, he saved her, in his arms he ran her to the shore as fast as he could. But this story is sensationalized. If she died an equivalent title would be “Carlos kills Maya”

          • bigbudah

            dont be so half cup fucking empty, learn to give respect where respect is due

          • John Dove

            Video just doesn’t match the tall tale.

      • Bojorco

        If she was face down and unconscious, does it matter how deep the water was and whether or not he walked her in his arms to shore or if he got her on his jet ski as he originally intended?

  • Spooner

    Hey Maya, do a playboy shoot already

    • guest

      “I would have been very depressed if she had died.” – understatement

    • Duarte Catela

      She already did it..

    • TimTam

      SHe did in Brazil…..

  • Brucie

    Wow. I love this sport

  • jb

    fucking legend

  • Nick

    Carlos would go

  • surfcheck

    Fuck- Definitely looks like the biggest wave. Wish they had footage of his save of Maya- that shore break is Waimea shorebreak on steroids. Balls big as basket balls, including Maya.

    • Funky Gibbon
      • jb

        xxl should do a save of the year award as well as their big wave stuff. can you imagine diving onto her back to get a 30 foot shorey on the head?

      • Rattone

        or you can look straight above to the exact same video that Stab already posted… pretty heavy images for sure, she was done-zo, face first and out cold for good. Carlos 100% is responsible for saving her from death and that’s pretty heavy

        • Funky Gibbon

          so you post 10 hours after the original post and jump straight in. The vid wasnt in the original post…. good skill batman.

          • Rattone

            thanks for regulating the comments Funky. Your doing an amazing job of putting everyone in their place. We both posted 1 day ago so it clearly wasn’t that much of a swing but nonetheless awesome job, don’t know what we would do without you’ keep up the good work!!

          • Funky Gibbon

            Cool story bro… your killing it. Keep sucking up that air

          • Rattone

            doing my best!! thanks for the encouragement bro bro…

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  • Lucas Smarker

    “She told me that she knew that she was dying and that she felt happy. That she was dying happy.”

    this article is by far one of the most beautiful things i’ve read in awhile. i’m going to read this to my kids before they go to sleep every night of their lives. it’s a fairytale.

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  • Beachbum S-Africa

    Awesome man. Absolute legend!

  • cade

    what a legend!! that story is as good as it gets!! saves a mates life then goes and surfs the biggest wave ever. Kudos Carlos the whole world salutes you

    • Jay

      Or: what an ego!! that story is as arrogant as it gets. Pushes a mate into waves she can’t surf, only manages to get to her at the beach, fails a ski rescue, medics revive her, he leaves her in critical condition to go surf again….. when everyone else was saying “don’t go” “she nearly died”, “the conditions have gotten worse” “Why put yourself and worse, others in more danger”

      • Kliniky1984

        If Maya didn’t want to be there, she wouldn’t have been there. It’s not his fault she had trouble. Someone who says “I was shaking. I’m not the best guy in these situations you know. I know the ocean, but I wasn’t expecting this. I was in shock and so totally scared.”, does not sound as though their ego is an issue.

        She probably would not have wanted him to miss his chance to catch a record wave on account of her situation, and it sounds like she was out of danger and conscious before she left in the ambulance.

        • Luca

          he spent 2 hours in the hospital. as soon as he knew she was ok, he went back to the water. i don’t really see any problem with this.

          • Dannille Bennett

            I feel this “rescue” needs to be further examined; As what not to do in a life saving event!

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  • Northy

    Does anyone want to write off Brazo’s now?

    • Keanu808

      yup. they still need to stay out of hawaii

      • Luca

        you do remember who started the whole jaw’s paddling thing, don’t you? it wasnt hawaiians, nor australians.

        • TimTam

          It was a south african years ago. Chris Bertish. He also won the Mavs comp in the biggest surf they have ever had.

      • Axel Foley


    • Jay

      Yup a prime example.

  • James B

    What a storm!!

    • Fuck James B

      shut up

  • StuartS


  • justiceminister

    Fantastic action from the deep grey swells. My admiration to those involved in this young maidens rescue.

  • Matt

    What a legend and a hero… but I would like to make an observation here… Maya nearly died at Chopes in 2011 on the big D day. Kelly Slater even said that she was nearly a goner if she got held under for another wave. Surely there comes a time that you have to go back to the drawing board and stop putting yourself in those situations until your ready again… Ye she is a charger and big up to that but gees man… Just an observation

    • DropWallet

      That’s a pretty insulting viewpoint based on her gender. Greg Long, Twiggy Baker and Shane Dorien have all had multiple near death experiences and I bet you wouldn’t tell them to quit surfing big waves.

      • Matt

        I honestly did not even think about gender when I wrote my comment. But fair enough if it comes across that way but didn’t say she must stop cause she has obviously made a career out of it (which is more than most of us can say). It just seems as if she hasn’t charged since chopes and den comes to Nazare and puts herself in such a heavy situation. Just a view nothing personal

        • DropWallet

          Fair nuff.

          Just came across a bit ” this here’s mans work, get that dainty dinner maker back to the kitchen where she’s safe and sound”.

          I hope she continues to charge.

          • Keanu808

            i hope she continues to make my sandwich

      • david

        apples and oranges. all those guys surf at a world class level and have been charging for years. if one of them runs into trouble, he’s as capable and prepared as a person can possibly be in the situation. anyone who spent time on the north shore over the last 10 years watched maya literally learn how to surf, watched her go from brazilian surf groupie to dedicated surfer, and at this point in her surfing life she still isn’t what you’d call expertly skilled. she’s clearly not as capable as dorian, long, or even keala kennelly. so no, we wouldn’t tell them to quit surfing big waves, because they don’t charge into situations they’re not prepared for. others (of both genders), including maya, do.
        cue purple response from luca, choking on his misplaced nationalistic pride…

        • Luca

          maya is not the best surfer in the world and she doesnt have to be.

          Again with the nationalism shit. Change records, bro. Really, just do it. Fast.

          I did not say anything about brazilian. what I said was she is a grown up adult, very capable of making her own decisions and anyone bashing Carlos for his “ego” is a fucking kook.

    • Axel Foley

      That was the first thing that crossed my mind, the episode at Chopes. This is the second big call she receives, I mean sometimes life gives you a couple warnings before real shit goes down. She had two, lets hope that the third one does not goes as bad.
      You gotta watch the signs, life is full of it.

      • Jay

        You’re very right. True watermen and women go by these signs and intuition. Others are blinded by egotism and a false sense of safety.

        • Axel Foley

          I agree all the way.
          I couldn’t say it better. Thanks for breaking it down.
          I read it on a European site, that Garret had it. He is not returning to Portugal or chasing mega waves after what he witnessed going down with Maya.

      • Ty Mcwilliams

        “She told me that she knew that she was dying and that she felt happy.”

        Doesn’t sound like she’s reading any signs. Sounds like she’s cool with checkin’ out.

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  • ThatDank

    I applaud Mayas charging attitude, but damn, don’t go out there if you’re not ready or cant handle it. Putting yourself and others in danger.

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  • MyTake

    awesome…what a stud.

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  • mckoss

    First rule of rescue – do no harm. Carlos ran over her with his ski the first pass, then dragged her through the surf at high speed when all she had was a rope to hang on to. It’s fortunate they were close enough to shore to ride the surf in when he went back for the third time. But it’s not so clear from the video that he didn’t cause as much harm to her as he provided “help”.

    • Luca

      shut the fuck up. go listen to Mayra’s interview. she broke her ankle when she felt on the wave, not when Burle was rescuing her. You wouldn’t know the fist thing about rescuing.
      Fucking kook.

      • Jay

        Nice attitude Luca. If you can’t discuss without abusing people, you have nothing good to say. Seems like you know not a lot. You should listen to experienced watermen. She swallowed water by being dragged. And she was nearly already at the beach by the time he got to her. She actually drowned. It was the medics on the beach that saved her. All about his ego not her. She shouldn’t have been out there.

        • Luca

          Again, go fuck yourself and get your facts straight. Guess who performed the CPR??? Yes, it was the same ego that rescued her from the nightmare she faced.

          ITS NOT ABOUT ABUSING PEOPLE, but you`re questioning the personality of a straight up guy without knowing a thing, so again shut the fuck up.

          Everyone that knows Burle knows that he`s not an arrogant prick like you seem to be. and again, Maya is not his first disciple.

          • Luca

            what a fucking prick you are. How do you question someones character without knowing anything about him? That tells a lot about yourself.

            fucking kook.

          • Luca

            also, he spent 2 hours in the hospital and made sure she was ok before paddling out again. i don’t see anything wrong with that.

            nothing really personal, but you’re bringing your hate to the wrong person.
            she’s an adult and can make decisions for herself. she’s not the first one carlos has taught and all the others seem to be doing just fine.

            there is a risk involved in surfing these type of waves. if anything, she’s actually lucky to have burle on her side.

          • Jay

            Wooh don’t be angry. You’re so angry. The purpose of this is to discuss. I’m just saying what a lot of people are saying. Great save. But he needed to as he put her there in the first place.

          • Luca

            lost my temper. apologize.

          • ThatDank

            get out of here

          • Keanu808

            he is defending the honor of his boyfriend. it’s quite cute actually

          • Keanu808

            are you carlos’ boyfriend?

          • Luca

            No, right now, I’m just fucking you mother.

          • Keanu808

            You are so full of anger. is it because your dad touched you when you were younger? Or maybe because you found out carlos is taking your mums ass?

          • Keanu808

            how are you doing that when your micro penis is in carlos’ mouth?

      • Ty Mcwilliams

        He didn’t say Carlos broke her ankle. But she didn’t lose consciousness until he dragged her through the water face first. No doubt he saved her life. The technique was just a bit rough.

        • Axel Foley

          According to Maya, she had been battling multiple sets, she was out of energy and she had gave up. Imagine take only one of those waves in the head, tough hun ?! Now imagine multiple back to back. She is tough, but she passed out of exhaustion.

      • kepler

        You must be a complete idiot.. everyone knows he saved her and he is a legend ! But dragging here full on with the jet ski is not so smart either that defintly didnt contribute to the “getting some nice fresh air quick”.

      • ThatDank

        and you do?

    • Jay

      I agree. Professional Life Guards and Watermen will say just that. The story would have been very different had the medics on the beach not revived her. This is not the first time either. When will he learn? Going out again to surf while she is being rushed to hospital in critical condition …. Arrogance and egotism. Anyone who has seen them first hand in Teahupoo will say the same.

    • Axel Foley

      She had no other injury besides he ankle. Your accusations are false and incorrect, the sled went by her and she could not reach it, Carlos had pivot it correctly in other to give her a chance to grab the handles. The rope dragging was last resort, he knew that she was near to drown, and when it happen he ditch the jet sky to salve her immediately.
      You can see all that on the above video, Carlos was a true hero in this case, like Raimana was the only one that had the balls to get Maya out Chopes between set waves. She is lucky to have those two guys around when it went down.

    • Manbearpig

      Did he do everything the right way? No he most certainly did not. But his two other options were leave her or wait and ponder about how to best handle it. We are monday morning quarterbacking the situation. He did what he thought (in the heat of the moment) was going to give her the best chance to stay alive. and with help she did.

      • Jay

        Yes true. He did the best he could and he did really well considering the situation. Jumping off to keep a hold of her was the best thing to do. All I’m saying is that we need to look at the whole picture.

      • Paul

        pretty hard to execute the right technique when you’ve got 60ft of whitewater about to slam them on each pass, surf lifesavers are taught ‘self preservation’ meaning that the patient is to be left should it be deemed too dangerous for the lifeguard to make a safe rescue, meaning carlos went against everything the book told him and tried desperately to save her life. which in any case should he have assessed it too difficult to extract Maya, then he would make a conscious decision to save himself. Carlos risked his own life to save Maya’s, which in any case is very admirable. a hero and legend Carlos Burle is, unlike all these twats on here trying to make a case for themselves behind their keyboards.

    • Linke

      Carlos, keep on surfing, drop the rescuing… You do not approach to a person with a jetski like that. He could have killed her with the machine.

  • MiriamValleDeHernandez

    Amazing Carlos!!! he is one of the best, his wife must be so proud of him I found her story here

  • Daniel Hildebrandt

    what a great article. goose bumps, chicken skin, call it what you want, i had it all. the video on top of the page blew me away. A W E S O M E !

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  • Jay

    Hold on wait a minute. This reminds me a bit of the climbers on Mt Everest. Its not about the skill of the climb anymore its about the bravado and the ego. Like tow in surfing now they have all the technology and safety equipment that can give you a false sense of security. There are very few surfers that can handle waves of that size and we should be asking the question; should she have been out there? This whole story would have been much different had she died. And she was so close to that. She was washed all the way to the beach and actually drowned. Secondary drowning (hours after) is a high possibility. But instead of being by her bed side he went on to stroke his own ego by going surfing again. A dominating relationship it seems to me. She was pushed by him into waves she shouldn’t have been surfing in Teahupoo too and nearly died there. All lot of people know its all about his ego “I’m not going to change man. I’m just going to carry on with my life and do the things that make me happy”…… Yes its all about you Carlos.

    • Luca

      what a fucking kook you are. carlos is a well accomplished big rider… according to you she shouldnt listen to him, but to some asshole in the internet named Jay, because it`s all about his ego.
      the dud jumps off a ski to rescue someone, but it`s all about his ego.

      BTW, what the fuck do you know about the nature of their relationship other than some internet post?
      Burle is a legend and helps everyone that is seriously about surfing big wave. Mayra is not his first diciple, you know?

      Man, go fuck yourself. the world needs it.

  • Ztrois

    Waterman and Waterlegend… Congrats Carlos Burle and all surfers (Maya, Macnamara, Koxa, Mancusi, Gordo, Vau, Rebiere, Cotton and Scooby) … epic day

    • Axel Foley

      Scooby is a Kook other than that kudos to everybody.

  • TimTam

    Fact is maya is a kook. She shouldn’t be allowed to go out in this type of surf. She is not only putting her life in danger but all others out there. You should have to be able to do a proper bottom turn at least to surf this sort of waves, She almost died in the code red Tahiti swell and I heard slater sent her an email saying she needs to be more reposnsible and learn to surf better. She got balls but not the skill. Carlos is a Hero and deserves to ride the biggest wave ever surfed but he shouldn’t have to be worried about Maya every time they go out…..

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  • sthrendyle

    His Ingles is perfecto-mundo. Thanks for this. What a humble hellman…

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  • Jacq

    Rugged Warrior! Karma gave him that WAVE! WOW….WOW….

  • kepler

    With all the respect to Maya she is a fucking cock block.

    • jmaccers

      wipeouts in 70-80 ft surf are inevitable, which is why we find it so amazing when people surf waves of that size. give the gal a break

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  • John Dove

    Carlos’ wave was weak. the left had a good hit section though.

    When he rescued her in the shorebreak, they were already in standing water.

    • Luca

      according to her, the third waves she took in the head ripped it off.

  • James B

    Carlos Burle is the man!!

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  • jmaccers

    Imagine if the WCT event was scheduled two weeks later

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  • James Lawrence

    What is that song?

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  • ThatDank

    Luca and James B should fuck and create the worlds kookiest baby.

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  • LandonO

    Sooner or later these energy drinks are going to kill somebody!

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