UNESCO welcomes Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira as Champion for the Ocean and Youth

At the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, announced the appointment of the Brazilian Big Wave surfer Maya Gabeira as the Organization’s Champion for the Ocean and Youth.

This week, Lisbon hosts the UN Ocean Conference, a major event in the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (‘the Ocean Decade’), led by UNESCO. This international conference aims to strengthen international cooperation on the ocean, promoting better understanding and protection of it.

On the opening day, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, announced the nomination of the Brazilian Big Wave surfer Maya Gabeira as a goodwill ambassador, appointing her to the position of “UNESCO Champion for the Ocean and Youth”.

UNESCO’s advocacy on ocean-sustainability issues

We are children of the ocean, and it is time for us to protect and restore its health for the generations to come. To succeed, we need inspiring and committed personalities who help us raise awareness of the sustainability issues with citizens around the world. Maya Gabeira has an exceptional background: she is an inspirational athlete who has pushed herself to the limits and a defender of the environment. I am happy that she is now joining the UNESCO family.
Audrey Azoulay
Audrey AzoulayDirector-General of UNESCO
I am very concerned about multiple ocean issues, from marine pollution to the destruction of marine biodiversity. What draws me to the role of UNESCO Champion for the Ocean and Youth is the opportunity to see the ocean through a multitude of perspectives: UNESCO acts to safeguard the biodiversity, as well as it supports scientific research and the cultural values of the ocean. It is my honour to make known its action
Maya GabeiraBrazilian Big Wave surfer champion of the organization for the ocean and the youth.

Maya Gabeira, who currently holds the world for the biggest wave ever surfed by a woman, will take an active role in promoting UNESCO’s advocacy on ocean-sustainability issues. She will be at the forefront of UNESCO’s efforts to mobilize new generations, hosting youth summits on ocean sustainability and acting as the lead spokesperson for Gen Ocean, UNESCO’s new campaign to spark lifestyle changes.

A trail-blazing surfer

Maya Gabeira grew up in an environmentally engaged household, and understood the importance of climate issues from an early age.  She started surfing aged 13 and turned pro by the time she was 17 years old. Preferring Big Waves over trick competitions, she has won the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards five years in a row. The highlight of her career came in 2020 when she broke the Guinness World Record for the biggest wave ever surfed by a woman, at 22.4 metres.

After 15 years in close contact with the ocean, Maya Gabeira has witnessed first-hand the impact of climate change on the marine world, and believes it is urgent we tackle the climate crisis. She has a strong track record of leading successful activist campaigns. As a board member for the NGO Oceana, she supported an anti-plastic campaign in Brazil, which resulted in the country’s leading food delivery company taking bold action to tackle single-use plastic waste. She hopes to bring this expertise and drive to help achieve UNESCO’s climate goals.