The World Surf League (WSL) announced Thursday that Brazilian big wave rider Maya Gabeira beat her own world record this year when she rode a 22.4-meter wave at Portugal’s Nazare, the same place she set the record in 2018.
Gabeira broke her previous mark by nearly 2 meters during a big wave competition at Nazarre on February 11. Not only was the wave a new women’s record, but the WSL says it was the biggest wave ridden by a man or woman in 2020.
The record is particularly sweet for Gabeira, who broke her ankle and nearly drowned in the same spot in 2013.
The WSL says its big wave awards are presented months after the rides because video and other data from all potential award-winning wave rides need to be submitted and analyzed by an independent team of scientific experts. The team included members from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Southern California’s Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, among others.
The experts examine video and still photos, consider the angles that video or pictures were taken from, and environmental conditions, including tides, sunlight and wave formation.
In recent years, Nazare has become a global focal point for big wave surfers. Scientists say big waves form there usually in the winter months, between October and March, when the harsher weather generates larger swells.
When those swells come from the west to northwest, they interact with a deep, underwater canyon off the coast of Nazare that, scientists say, can magnify wave height by three to five times.
The largest documented wave ever surfed was at Nazare, a 24.38-meter wave in 2017.