Hawaii’s North Shore, with its deep-blue water and high-drama breaks, is indisputably the mecca of surfing. Big-wave surfer Maya Gabeira says the location is a must-visit for anyone who loves the sport. “This is where all the top surfers in the world go to see how they rank,” she says. “But beyond that, surfing in Hawaii is just special.”
Surfers of all levels can find waves on the iconic North Shore. Winter is the best season, and while the area is known for swells as large as 30 feet, there are also plenty of beginner and intermediate waves to be had. At legendary beaches like Banzai Pipeline, it’s sometimes enough to just sit back and watch Mother Nature in action. At Pipeline, huge swells roll in and break on a shallow reef very close to the shore for optimal viewing. The cavernous shape of the reef spawns unique tubular waves that surfers ride inside, which makes for thrilling spectating.
If you have extra time, or want to see some true big-wave surfing—the type of tow-in surfing that Gabeira does—she recommends the Jaws break on Maui.
In 2009, Maya Gabeira surfed a 45-foot wave in South Africa’s Dungeons break—the biggest ever by a woman—earning her that year’s ESPY Award for Best Female Action Sport Athlete. In 2012, she won the “Girl’s Best Performance” title at the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards. The Brazilian was the first (although no longer the only) sponsored female big-wave surfer in the world. Read her Adventurers of the Year profile.
Maya Gabeira's Gear Pick: iPhone
“I go everywhere with my iPhone—I love snapping pictures, and I can't lose contact with my family while on the road. A Lifeproof case is awesome. It is waterproof and super protective."