Warning: Gabeira is shown unconscious at one point in this video, floating facedown in the shore break. It is graphic, but she does survive!
This video is stunning, and it’s hard to even grasp what it must have felt like to be either of these world-class surfers, trying to break a world record at Nazaré in Portugal.
According to Stab Magazine, Gabeira wiped out and snapped her ankle, and ended up trapped on the inside— which is the impact zone of the wave, and if you get stuck there, you can’t get through to where they are not breaking. Normal sized waves crashing on an uninjured person can be overwhelming, but when the water coming down on you is from some of the biggest waves in the world, and you’re in excruciating pain and perhaps shock, it must be so much worse.
Carlos Burle takes the waverunner he’d used to tow her out and tries to rescue her, but she seems too weak to grab the sled. She tries to grab the tow line but another wave comes in and pushes her off. Carlos can’t have the ski where the waves are crashing, so he circles around, ditches the ski, and dives in and grabs her lifeless body.
Carlos describes to Stab what that was like:
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.
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.
As if this wasn’t enough of an amazing scene, soon after that Burle got back in that water and was towed out to surf what may have been the biggest wave to ever be surfed. In the Stab interview, Carlos Burle refuses to speculate on whether he broke any records, but he does know that what matters most is that his friend, Maya, is alive. He tells Stab:
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.
Read the rest of Stab Magazine’s fantastic and engrossing interview with hero and all-around badass Carlos Burle here. You can also follow this link to see Carlos’ surf what is possibly biggest wave ever surfed.
*It may be the biggest wave ever—at the very least, it seems most people are speculating that it was.