Sofia Says

No matter where in the world, or at what time in the morning, somehow Sofia always seems to be wearing a smile. Howard

It's still early days on the Women's ASP World Tour, but seeing as Stephanie Gilmore has come out of the gates with guns blazing and back-to-back wins at Snapper and Bells, it's going to be a long, hard slog for any of the girls hoping to catch her. Sofia Mulanovich knows this all too well, but that doesn't really seem to get her down. In fact, it's hard to imagine too much gets her down. Always bright and bubbly, inherently "stoked," ESPN Surfing caught up with Sofia early in the morning last Friday. Somewhere between shooting a feature for Vanity Fair (a story you'll hear more about later this week), giving Peruvian newspaper El Comercio a tour of Huntington Beach, conducting an interview with ESPN Magazine's Alyssa Roenigk, as well as getting into it with her mom for the millionth time as to why she's currently single, Sofia and I managed to sit down for a quick chat:

Overall, what's your take on the health of women's surfing on tour?
I think it's super great right now. The performance level keeps getting higher and higher. I just wish the contests were in better waves. I'm pretty bummed that Fiji and Tahiti are not on. It's not like I charge or anything, but when we used to surf Teahupoo at two or three feet it was super fun. I just miss having that quality of a wave to compete in, I think it really helped elevate our sport. Like this year, we didn't even surf Snapper, we surfed D-Bah.

Steph's come out firing, but otherwise it looks like the year's started all right for you?
Yeah, I made the semis at Bells and the Quarters on the Goldy. It's an all right start. I'm stoked so far.

Steph's holding back-to-back world titles, and she's won the first two events of the year, as a former world champion, what's your take on what she's doing right now?
She's on fire. What else can you say? Steph is such an amazing surfer, but she's also a great competitor. I think you really have to be on your game if you want a chance at beating her. So far nobody's been up to the challenge this year.

Knowing that you'd be facing off against Steph again all year, did you prepare any differently going into the '09 season?
Not really. I think in the first contest I didn't use the right board, but then at Bells I found a really good one, and that can make all the difference. So yeah, I'm just stoked about that. And now we have like a really big break and it'll be good to be able to train more and go on surf trips.

So at the top of the ratings for the past few years it's been you and Steph, but now there's this whole next generation of girls coming up, is there a little generational clash?
Yeah, the young girls are surfing really, really well. They're super hungry and super talented, so yeah, for sure there's definitely something there. There have been a lot of heats this year where it's been young against old, and they're pretty good heats to watch, you know. Lots of times the young ones get us, but we get them back. So that's been a lot of fun. It's good, makes it more interesting.

What trips do you have coming up?
I've got two trips back to back in Indo, so I'm going to be in the Mentawais for like a month. Pretty stoked about that, it should be fun.

Back to your boards, you've been riding Merricks for a long time?
Yeah, I've been riding Merricks since I was 17 years old. They're just amazing boards.

Do you work pretty closely with Al on your quivers?
Yeah, I've been up to Santa Barbara a few times, but I should be there more. It's really hard. I live so far away and I'm always on the road, so I kind of have to trust what he's doing. I do think that I'm going to make more of an effort to do that though. Like I said, a good board can make all the difference.

Guys bring a dozen or more boards to a contest, what about the girls, how many boards will you bring to a contest?
Well, a lot of our contests are in not very good waves, so if you find a couple magic boards you can hopefully stick with them for a long time. Also, we don't need all kinds of different boards like the guys. Like when they go somewhere one day it can be super big and the next super small, so they have to be prepared for everything. We don't really have that problem.

What's your magic contest board?
Last year I was riding a 5'6" Flyer, which is really thick, but now trying to change it up a bit. Now I'm riding a 5'7" MBM, which is a little thinner and has a little cleaner outline. It's a more high-performance board.

Changing subjects, waves like Teahupoo, there's Maya and Jamilah who are rushing it, but do you see women getting more into that?
Yeah, I think there are a lot of girls starting to charge right now. Maya's amazing. And even Keala, she's so good in those kinds of waves. Rochelle too, she's really good in hollow conditions. It's so good to see those girls charging like that. It's another kind of surfing though. If you want to be on the 'QS or 'CT you can't really practice in that kind of stuff because it's so far from what we experience on tour.

And what about home, you going home any time soon?
I'll go back to Peru after I'm done in Indo. That'll be nice. Then I can just hop over to Brazil for the next contest. I've been away from home for almost three months now.

How do you keep your life in order when you're gone for that long?
I don't know, I just kind of let it go day by day and don't really think about how long I've been away.