A new children’s book, Maya and the Beast, tells the story of Maya, a young surfer who lives in a town where everyone is scared of “the Beast,” a huge wave. Maya finds the sound of the big wave crashing on shore comforting, and aims to prove that by the wave—and fear—can be conquered.
This inspiring tale is based on Brazilian big wave surfer Maya Gabeira’s own experience. In 2018, she set the Guinness World Record for the biggest wave surfed by a female—and then destroyed that record in 2020 by conquering a 73.5 footer, the biggest wave surfed by a man or woman that year. She has defied gender expectations, broken records, and come back from serious injury (including three spine surgeries).
We spoke to Maya about her amazing life, new book, and more.
You signed a three-book deal with Abrams—congratulations! How did discrimination you’ve faced spur you to launch a brand new career as a children’s book author?
I had people often doubt me in big wave surfing because that was not a normal environment for girls. My skills were always questioned. I hope to inspire children to listen to their inner voice and not give up on their dreams.
You are credited with surfing some of the biggest waves on record-did you go out looking to break records, and what does it mean to you?
Yes, that was always my dream: to achieve a world record in big wave surfing.
You’ve also had near-death experiences. What has motivated you to continue over the years?
My passion for surfing and the ocean has kept me moving forward.
What are you hoping girls (and boys) reading your picture book, and your upcoming young adult novel, get from them?
Resilience, to pursue their passion, to not let others define what they can do and to be patient. Good things take time.
If parents of kids are reading this, and struggling with their kids doing “riskier” sports, what would you like them to know?
Sports are a great tool for health, but also self-discovery. Risky sports teach us to deal with our fears, listen to our instincts, and make responsible decisions because of the higher consequence.
What’s next for you?
Continue to surf, write, advocate for the ocean and keep a simple lifestyle.