5 Big Wave Female Surfers

Surfers on a wave in Nazaré, Portugal

Watching big wave surfing is an exhilarating yet petrifying experience. For those who live and breathe surfing, riding big waves is a whole different ball game.

With waves exceeding 60ft, onlookers are left in awe of this almost death-defying sport. Extensive training and the ability to remain focussed in unbelievable situations, it is a sport for the bravest of the brave.

For those inspired to take up the sport and hit the waves, you can find a selection essential equiptment here at Wetsuit Centre, why not take a look at our women's wetsuits?


2020, the Year of Female Big Wave Surfers

2020 has been an incredible year for female big wave surfers, with athlete Maya Gabeira stealing the world record for the biggest wave of the year for both men and women in the sport!

We take a look at the athletes and women who have influenced big wave surfing!

These incredible surfers are sure to make you feel inspired for the sea. If you need the ultimate wetsuit to ensure you can surf at your peak performance, check out our incredible rage of women’s wetsuits!

Maya Gabeira

Surf Achievements

Born in Brazil, Maya Gabeira has many big wave surfing achievements to boast.

Her most inspirational achievement was in September 2020. Gabeira accomplished a new world record during the World Surf League’s (WSL) 2020 Women’s XXL Biggest Wave Award in Nazaré, Portugal.

Not only did her whopping 73.5 ft wave break her previous 68ft record, making it ‘the largest wave ever surfed by a woman’, her fierce wave also beat male competitors, including Kai Lenny; the largest wave of 2020 belongs to a woman! It is a momentous and inspiring achievement, especially for women surfers across the world.

However, it hasn’t always been plain sailing for Gabeira.

In 2013, she broke her ankle and almost drowned in the turbulent waters of Nazare. Undeterred, 2018 saw her grab the winning title and become the first female big wave surfer in the Guinness World Records. In total, she has five Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Award titles!

Justine Dupont

Surf Achievements

Another phenomenal surfer who has achieved some outstanding accomplishments this year is Justine Dupont.

The French surfer started her professional surfing career at a young age, finishing second at the World Longboard Championships at the age of 15.

In 2020, she wasn’t far off the heels of Gabeira, and the close call between both competitor’s led to an intrinsic review never seen before in the judging to determine the largest wave.

Dupont’s wave also beat male competitor Kai Lenney’s but held up just a couple of feet under Gabiera’s.

The competition for biggest wave between Dupont and Gabeira has created controversy, and Dupont felt disappointed about WSL’s final decision to award Gabeira the title of the largest wave due to many factors including that Dupont completed her wave without falling. Regardless, we’re still inspired by both women’s incredible feats!

Keala Kennelly

Surf Achievements

Renowned for being a fierce surf competitor, Keala Kennelly is a big name in the surfing world with incredible achievements.

Growing up in Hawaii, Kennelly is the Queen of Teahupo’o, arguably one of the most dangerous breaks in the world. Both heavy and shallow, riding Teahupo’o separates the good surf competitors from the incredible ones.

Kennelly has won titles at the world’s most notorious surf spot many times including 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2003. In 2005, she became the first ever woman to be towed in at Teahupo’o.

More recently, she became the 2018 female Big Wave World Champion.

Other incredible accomplishments include:

• The first woman to surf Nelscott Reef near Oregon, USA, going on to win the Big Wave Classic.
• In 2015, she was the first female surfer to receive the Pure Scot Barrel Award after an amazing barrel at Teahupo’o.

Sarah Gerhardt

Surf Achievements

Sarah Gerhardt is a truly inspiring figure in big wave surfing. Relocating to Santa Cruz in 1998, her journey in big wave surfing flourished in one of the world’s most notoriously dangerous surf spots, Mavericks.

In 1999, she achieved the title as the first woman to surf Mavericks. However, her accomplishments don’t stop there; she also went on to become the first woman ever to be a tow-in-surfer.

Gerhardt isn’t a professional surfer, but her dedication to big wave surfing at a time when it was challenging for women has justly put her on the map and made her a household name.

Discover more about surfing at Mavericks in our blog on the world’s biggest surf locations below!

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Andrea Moller

Surf Achievements

The ultimate water lover, Brazilian born Andrea Moller is talented in many water sports.

Her debut in big wave surfing happened in 2004 when she was the first female surfer to be towed-in to the terrifying big surf location, Jaws. She was also the first woman to paddle-in at Jaws.

2016 saw her achieve a new record as ‘the biggest paddle-in wave by a female surfer’ at the notorious break, where she rode a 42ft wave. However, it wasn’t all celebrations as the wave ended in a wipe-out that tore her hamstring from the bone…Ouch!

As a result, WSL awarded her with the title of the WSL Women’s Best Performance of the Year Award.

We’ve only touched on a handful of incredible female athletes who have set records and opened doors for women in big wave surfing! Who is your most inspirational big wave rider? Why not share your thoughts with us on our social media channels?