Proyecto Sofia: Former Champ Gives Back

Before Gabriel Medina (BRA) there was another South American World Champion, Peru's Sofia Mulanovich. Mulanovich, who made history as the first-ever South American World Champ, left the women's Championship Tour at the end of 2013 having spent a decade of her life competing against the world's best surfers. Barely two years later, she's still making history with the first-ever surf academy in her native country.

Mulanovich took some time to about what life is like after the Tour and what she hopes to accomplish with her latest venture.

World Surf League: You recently launched a non-profit, Proyecto Sofia Mulanovich. How does it work, and what are your goals for it?
Sofia Mulanovich: Proyecto Sofia Mulanovich is a high-performance youth surf academy aimed at developing talented young people regardless of their social background, helping prepare them for life's opportunities and challenges. It's the first of its kind in Peru. We have been searching for 10 kids to receive a full scholarship and be part of the Proyecto. Now we have them.

Proyecto Sofia, Peru's First Surf Academy
See how former Peruvian World Champ Sofia Mulanovich is making a difference for others in life after the Tour.

WSL: How does surfing impact the youth you've been working with, in the water and out?
SM: Surfing touches all these kids in many different ways. Some of them don't have the resources and support that I had when I was young. So through my team and partners like Swatch we are giving these kids everything they need to be a pro surfer.

WSL: What inspired you to create your non-profit, and why did you choose to pursue this type of project in particular?
SM: I have received a lot out of surfing and I felt it was my turn to offer this back to surfing and to Peru.

WSL: What are the plans for the surfers who make the Project's "Scouting Camp"? Will they be able to pursue surfing careers if they so choose?
SM: For the 10 kids that make it they receive a full surfing scholarship that includes all their equipment, coaching, physical training, psychologists. Two of them are going to be lucky enough to head to Australia with me to attend the High Performance Centre and the opening event of the WSL Championship Tour. So it's pretty exciting.

Sofia Mulanovich (PER) and her inaugural surf academy class. Mulanovich and the inaugural class of the Project Sofia Mulanovich surf academy. - WSL

WSL: What's your take on the latest roster of the Top 17 women on Tour? Who are the standouts, and what are the biggest differences -- in terms of the surfing, the Tour, or the culture -- since your time on Tour?
SM: The level of surfing is going through the roof year on year. I watched nearly every heat last year and I still get super excited. The girls are all professional, surfing incredible waves, and there are no easy heats.

WSL: You won the Rip Curl Women's Pro San Bartolo last year so you clearly still have a competitive edge. How do you release that competitive spirit now that you're off the Tour?
SM: I am an intense, competitive person so now I am channelling all this energy towards this new project and some time for myself.

WSL: What do you miss about being on Tour?
SM: I miss some areas of being on Tour, but I am happy in the new stage I am in. I miss my friends and surfing good waves all the time.

WSL: Who do you think will win the women's World Title this year?
SM: The beauty of the current crop of girls is that any of them can win. Obviously I have my personal favorites, and I have to admit it is more than half the Tour. The likes of Steph [Gilmore], Carissa [Moore], Tyler [Wright], Courtney [Conlogue], Sally [Fitzgibbons] are still the ones to beat.

Coach Coco and surf academy class member Lara at the Project Sofia Mulanovich surf academy. Coach Coco and surf academy student Lara. - WSL

WSL: What are the biggest challenges with respect to transitioning from professional surfing to a new career path? What advice would you give to the women on Tour now?
SM: Stay on Tour as long as you can. The Tour is an amazing place to be and it can kind of spoil you. Honestly, the hardest thing is that I am now making decisions that impact all these kids, and my staff. Before it was all about me, if I lost then I lost, if I won then I won. Now I feel I have more responsibility and I need to be more patient. There are a lot of things that are out of my control whereas before it was up to me to control them.

WSL: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
SM: I am really focusing my energy on the next 4-to-5 years with this project. I haven't really thought much about a 10-year plan. You know I am still a surfer and I am just looking for my next wave.

WSL: If you could re-surf any heats of your career, would you?
SM: I got second in the World Title race twice so there would be some heats in those two years that for sure I would surf again.