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
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.