Sofia and her mother, Ines, wait for their interview at the Hilton.
[Ed.'s Note: The Action Sports Report is a weekly blog that covers sports from skateboarding to snowboarding to FMX.]
This was supposed to be a story about something else. It was supposed to be a story about two Peruvian superstar athletes, a boxer and a surfer, who are both world champions. They were childhood friends who surfed together in Punta Hermosa in the summers and were reuniting in L.A. for a story in a Peruvian newspaper, El Comercial. Their reunion was supposed to take place in a Huntington Beach hotel, where 25-year-old Sofia Mulanovich, a world champion surfer currently in the middle of her world tour, had scheduled a stop in order to meet with boxing sensation Kina Malpartida. Malpartida, 29, now lives and trains in Huntington and is fresh off a title bout. On February 21, she won the WBA super featherweight championship with a 10th-round TKO of Maureen Shea at Madison Square Garden.
Sofia and Kina were going to talk about what it is like to be a female icon in South America, and a sports celebrity in a country with a notoriously machismo attitude that has only recently become accepting of female athletes. As the status of these women has grown abroad—Mulanovich was in Los Angeles for a photo shoot with Vanity Fair—so, too, has participation in sports among women in Peru. These two women are largely to credit for that growth.
Since the Hilton's across the street from the Huntington breaks, why not go for a quick surf?
Unfortunately, a few hours before the meeting, word got through that Malpartida wouldn't be showing up. Although she had already agreed to the meeting, and a reporter and photographer had flown to Los Angeles from Peru to interview her, she informed the group that she wanted $1,000 for an interview and photographs. With her new title and newfound fame, she simply wasn't willing to give her story away for free. Ironically, the anecdote tells more about what it means to be a female athlete in South America than a newspaper story ever could have.
Instead, I sat down with Mulanovich to talk about Peru, the women's world tour, and what it really means to be a female icon in South America.
ASR: If Kina were here right now, what would you say to her?MULANOVICH: I would congratulate her, give her a big hug and have lots of questions. I think in Peru, what she's done is huge. I think she is probably more well known than me now. She has done an amazing thing. She is the world champ.
How has the perception of female athletes in Peru changed since you first won your world title?
The sport of surfing is growing. There are more young girls in the water and a lot of kids coming up from Peru. Hopefully we will see another Peruvian on tour sooner rather than later. The surf contest you hold in Mancora has been a success the past two years. Any changes for 2009?
I love Mancora and I think I surf there better than any other place in the world. I was stoked to bring everyone to Mancora. Good food, good people, good wave. The first year, everyone got sick. That year, I had so much pressure and I cracked in the semis. I fell to the pressure. Last year, I was all over the place. I was injured and my mind wasn't in it and in the quarters, I bombed. Hopefully I can do better this year. And it's not going to be in Mancora in the north anymore. It's moving to Punta Hermosa, which will be good. It will be easier for spectators. We're not sure what wave yet, but maybe San Bartolo, a wave in front of my house. I love Mancora, but I think it will be amazing to have the contest it at home, too. I haven't been home in three months and won't be home for a few more. It's been a while since I've gone this long without going home to Peru.
The next WCT contest, the Billabong Girls Pro in Brazil, is still not confirmed. If that contest is canceled, you won't have another event until October.
I know. A really big break. But I hope Brazil will happen, especially because Silvana Lima just won a big contest (the 2009 Rip Curl Women's Pro at Bell's Beach), and that should be a big deal to her home country. They will be proud of that, so I hope the contest will happen. Not knowing is a little nerve wracking.
And if not, how will you fill the time?
I am stoked for the break because I am going to be able to train. I couldn't train before the last two contests, so I will take advantage of the time. Red Bull is giving us a coach, Dan Ross, who is going to work with the women and some of the young guys. I am going on a couple boat trips and I am going to surf some WQS contests. I am leaving for Portugal for a WQS (Billabong Girls Estoril, May 1-3) and surfing at the U.S. Open. I like QS contests because the level is good and there are lots of great up-and-coming girls at those contests. It is always good to compete and fun to travel the world, be with your friends and surf. The waves are good today. I'm going surfing as soon as we're done with the interview.
Then we're done.