The first time I saw a really big wave was at Waimea, at the Eddie Aikau invitational. I was 17 and had just moved to Hawaii from Brazil. I wanted to live on my own. I wanted to figure out who I was and what I really wanted in life. I knew that day that I wanted to surf those waves. After a year of sitting in the lineup with the boys, I caught my first big onemaybe 15 feetand everything just felt right. I was so focused and in the moment. I loved it. Soon enough I was surfing big waves all over the world. I ended up at Teahupoo, in Tahiti. I was really nervous. I took two big wipeouts, either of which could have ended my career. But it didn't feel right to sit on my board and look stupid, to give up. So my partner, Carlos Burle, towed me out again, and I caught one. People criticized me for taking those risks, for getting in over my head. And, yes, in the beginning I did take a lot of risks, but in the beginning you have to take those risks. How else do you make it? How else do you realize your dreams?
Last August, Gabeira surfed a 45-footer at Dungeons, South Africa, the largest wave ever ridden by a womanwhich makes her a shoo-in for her third consecutive Billabong XXL title.