Stab Magazine | It's Official, A Woman Surfed The Biggest Wave This Year

It’s Official, A Woman Surfed The Biggest Wave This Year

The same day as Kai Lenny’s at Nazare, just 3-feet bigger. 

news // Sep 13, 2020
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The WSL’s Big Extra Extra Large Wave Awards did not go as planned this year, as with everything else organised pre-February. Rather than one big event, the awards have been dripped into the social feed over a number of weeks. The men’s biggest wave award was announced mid-August – it was Kai Lenny on that right-hand Nazare square – and on Thursday the women’s winner was announced.

That winner was Maya Gabeira and the wave was from Nazare on the same day as Kai’s. If there was an overall winner based on wave-size though, the award would be going to Maya: her wave was an estimated 73.5 foot, whereas Kai’s came in at a measly 70. Maya got smoked by her wave and Kai did a carve post-his, but according to a bunch of scientists Maya’s wave was bigger. 

Typically, the men’s and women’s awards are announced in conjunction, and that was still the plan despite Covid’s interruptions heading in August. On August 17 however, it was announced the women’s award would be delayed due to a tight race between Maya’s aforementioned bomb and a wave Justine Dupont caught. In other words, they had to bring in the professionals (Kelly Slater Wave Co people, researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Southern California’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering) to measure the waves to a more precise standard. 

“It was definitely the first time we’ve used collinear equations in terms of adjudicating the size of the waves,” Miley-Dyer told The Atlantic, which has a great write-up on this. “We’ve never had that kind of real, objective data, scientific data, behind something like this.” The report for Maya’s wave was 16-pages long and conservatively estimated her wave at 73.5 feet, Whereas Kai’s wave was measured with the highly subjective photo and video analysis and penned his wave at 70-feet. 

Maya has now officially re-broken the world record for the largest wave surfed by a woman. Her previous record of 68-feet was set at Nazare in 2018 so it didn’t take long for her to add another five and a bit feet. 


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