Filmmaker Stephanie Johnes’ thrilling documentary follows world-champion Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira, who battles against monster waves as well as chauvinism in the field of competitive surfing.
Maya and the Wave
Maya Gabeira grew up in Brazil with a dream to surf competitively. Like any surfer, she had to overcome the hazards of the ocean through training and discipline. But she was also forced to confront deep chauvinism in the male-dominated sport as naysayers second-guessed her every move.
In Maya and the Wave, we follow Gabeira on a quest to break a world record in the Portuguese town of Nazaré, known for its big waves. Filmmaker Stephanie Johnes follows Maya over several years as she perseveres through setbacks, injuries, and a near-death experience to pursue her goal.
The film gains an intimacy with Maya and her family that’s rarely attained in profiles of elite athletes. We see her draw strength from her mother, the fashion designer Yamê Reis, and her father, Fernando Gabeira, whose life in radical politics was depicted in the Oscar-nominated film Four Days in September.
We watch Maya navigate the choppy waters of the sports business and the tensions that arise over sponsorship, press coverage, and judging. She endures constant undermining that reflects what happens in many fields where women need to work harder than men to get equal recognition.
The surfing footage is thrilling and harrowing in equal measure, with aquatic landscapes that command a theatrical experience. When Maya gets on the board, you may find your own toes curling in anticipation of a wild ride.