Maya Gabeira used to go to the beach just to tan. She was 14, living in Rio de Janeiro and dating a surfer dude. She would watch from the shore as he carved up the ocean. "I'd see him coming in with that big smile, all soaked, and I'd feel like I was missing out on something," she says. "So with his support, I started surf school."
Within about 3 years, Gabeira had moved to Hawaii to pursue surfing professionally. Now 24, she holds the women's world record for the largest wave ever surfed, a 45-footer in South Africa. So you'd be forgiven if you saw her on the beach, moving with such grace and confidence, and were too intimidated to walk right up and say hello.