Ocean Decade Conversations: Maya Gabeira (Giant Wave Surfer, and UNESCO Champion for the Ocean and Youth)
On this 2023 International Women’s Day special edition of the Ocean Decade Conversations, we have a very passionate guest who’s calling us to take action for the ocean now! The ocean is Maya Gabeira’s home and she has been experiencing with her own eyes the enormous challenges this ecosystem has been facing, from loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction, overfishing and ocean acidification. But how to change this?
Ride this wave with us as we discuss her passions, plans, projects and get inspired too to make a difference and help us achieve the ocean we want.
1. Please tell us about your love for the environment and the first time you had contact with the ocean.
Being outside in nature for me is the best way to spend my days. I love the ocean and I am very lucky to do most part of my work in the ocean. I don’t remember the first times I entered the ocean. I must have been very little. But I remember the first few waves I have ever ridden, I was 13 years old and the feeling was so fun and exciting. I was afraid of the ocean but also drawn to it.
2. What kind of responsibility do you feel as a role model for young girls who dream of becoming a professional surfer? What is it like to be a UNESCO Champion for the Ocean and Youth?
For me is important that girls are allowed and supported to chase whatever career and dreams they might have. If it is surfing, dedication and hard work always pays off. It’s amazing to be involved with the UNESCO family and to continue to advocate for a healthy ocean in a powerful platform.
3. We would love to know more about your children’s books. How can these be a way to spread the word about ocean literacy to many different places?
I share my love and journey in the sea and in surfing with young readers. Hopefully some share the same love for the sea as I do and the ones that don’t might be curious and more interested after the read.
a. What’s the next Maya book adventure?
Maya in the Sea as a picture book. It’s probably coming out this fall and is the sequel of Maya and the Beast. Can’t wait to share it with the kids.
b. For our younger readers: What’s your favorite marine animal?
I love them all. And I talk about them in Maya in the Sea. Let’s say dolphins are pretty good surfers but all animals are equally important for a balanced and healthy ocean.
4. A documentary about you just came out, which was featured in great festivals around the world. Why is film important to help connect your life and the ocean with audiences?
Films are a great way to share experiences and I think inspire people. We need people to love and care for the ocean. If my story in surfing can help with that I am happy to share.
5. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, could you please share with us the work of a woman who inspires you into embracing change and action towards protecting the ocean?
Sylvia Earle is super inspiring, a pioneer and leader in her field for so many years. And she still leads ocean advocacy with hope and enthusiasm besides all the knowledge.
6. What are your upcoming plans in terms of surfing, advocacy, and more in 2023?
Going to Brazil soon, to see family and to work for my organic sunscreen line Blue Aya as well as other projects. I hope to be in Chile/Patagonia in April attending Oceana’s board meeting which is always so exciting and eye opening for me.
a. Tell us a place where you would love to surf but haven’t had the chance yet?
7. What would you love to accomplish by the end of the UN Ocean Decade in 2030?
That’s a big one. I think I won’t accomplish much alone so it’s what are we going to accomplish by the end of the Decade as a group and as a movement. Having 30% of marine areas protected (functionally speaking). That’s a great goal. But in every sphere of ocean conservation and ocean economy we should be led by science and act upon what’s needed to regain a healthy ocean to help flight the climate change crisis and the food crisis that we face.
8. Do you have a message to share with the Ocean Decade Community? Why is it important to join the Ocean Decade movement?
The ocean is magnificent, is magical and is powerful. Simply said it does serve us with more than half of the oxygen we have on planet Earth. So keeping it healthy is a necessity for our survival. It is not healthy now and if we don’t change the way we do things in life the imbalance will only worsen.
So it’s time to hear the science and change our ways of living to find harmony between us and sea, and us and nature as a whole.