Maya Gabeira

Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira is a tiny blade on the water, cutting a line of white spume down the deep ridge of the vast grey wave that climbs behind her. The wave in question measured 22.4 metres (73.5ft), the highest ever surfed by a woman, the first to be measured and verified by Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and a couple of feet greater than the one surfed by her nearest rival. It is also the biggest wave measured this year, surfed by man or woman.

Gabeira, who broke her own previous Guinness world record of 68ft, attributes her achievement to what she calls “taking a critical line”. In short, she takes her board to the fiercest and tallest part of the wave, “where the most powerful energy is, where it is actually breaking”. This, she says, is how “you put value into your wave”.

All this after nearly being killed a few years earlier riding waves in the same spot.