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Mulanovich, Sofia


Cherub-faced regularfooter from Lima, Peru; winner of the 2004 World Championship Tour, and the first pro tour winner from Latin America. Mulanovich was born (1983) in Lima, Peru, and raised in nearby Punta Hermosa, a village close to a series of pointbreaks. Her mother ran a beachside smoothie stand and her father worked in a fish-processing factory. The Spanish-speaking Mulanovich attended a British-run all-girls school, and became fluent in English and French. At age three she began bodyboarding and at nine she began riding stand-up; her two brothers were accomplished surfers, and older brother Herbert was a national surfing champion.

Surfing has traditionally been a man's sport in Peru, even more so than in the rest of the world, and a lack of female competition meant that Mulanovich spent most of her amateur career surfing against boys. Magoo de la Rosa, seven-time national Peruvian champion, coached Mulanovich, and was at least partly responsible for her development into a quick, powerful surfer, able to leverage her compact frame (5' 3", 130 pounds) to devastating effect in small and mid-sized waves, especially while riding backside. She began entering pro contests at age 13; two years later she was featured in Bill Ballard's all-women surf video Blue Crush.

In 2000, at age 17, she placed third in the women's division of the biannual World Surfing Games; she returned to win the Games in 2002, and the following season, her first on the world tour, she was named rookie of the year and finished #7 in the ratings. By now a sports hero in Peru, Mulanovich was a presenter at the 2003 VH1 Latin American Music Awards, watched by an estimated one billion viewers worldwide.

Mulanovich got off to a slow start in 2004, placing ninth in the opening contest, then won three consecutive events in Fiji, Tahiti, and France, and with just three stops left on the schedule she coasted to the title, dethroning good friend and six-time world champion Layne Beachley of Australia. Rightly viewed as one of pro surfing's sweetest personalities, Mulanovich can also swear like a longshoreman. The 2004 season-ending pro contests in Hawaii featured TV coverage and in-water microphones, and during the Roxy Pro finals, when it was announced that Mulanovich had won the title, her heavily censored reply was, "Fuck, I'm the fucking world champ! What the fuck is going on? Fuck!" Weeks later, back in Peru, a national holiday was declared in her honor.

Mulanovich was a title threat for the next several seasons, finishing second in 2005 (to Chelsea Georgeson) and 2007 (to Stephanie Gilmore), before slipping slowly down the rankings to 12th in 2012. 

Mulanovich has been featured in a small number of surf videos, including Modus Mix (2003), A Girl's Surf Addiction (2004), Peel: The Peru Project (2006), and Dear and Yonder (2009). Sofia, a biopic chronicling the rise of Peru's most famous surfer, was released in 2008. Mulanovich was presented with ESPN's "ESPY" award in 2005 for Best Female Action Sports Athlete. Starting in 2005, she won four consecutive Surfer Magazine Poll Awards for top female surfer. In 2007, Mulanovich was inducted into the Surfer's Hall of Fame at Huntington Beach.