28 Years Old // Lima, Peru

Sofia Mulanovich
Photo: Macfarlane

At 28 years old, Sofia Mulanovich is a veteran on the Women's World Tour. She won the world title in 2004, when Carissa Moore was 12, by showing the world her fins. The little girl from Lima has since become a figurehead in her home country. She is Peru's icon of optimism, embodying the idea of "Sí, Se Puede" (yes, we can), a sentiment that dreams are attainable no matter the circumstance.

Peru has long struggled as a nation, and the fact that Sofia went abroad and won a world title has made her the country's face of hope and inspiration. She is Barack Obama circa 2008.

Being a South American sports icon involves some work: frequent visits with the president of Peru, receiving merits and prestigious awards from the government. Hand shaking and baby kissing. But most importantly her hero status allows her to be a role model for Peru's next generation. Sofia says, "I want to give back to my country by sharing my message to pursue your dreams, be free to be who you want to be." Which in Peru isn't quite as easy as it is here in the US of A. "We have gone through difficult times and to see the progression of our people and the hope we have now is amazing."

Thanks to Sofia's success, surfing is exploding up and down the Peruvian coast. The country's perspective of a peripheral sport has been greatly changed by a five-foot-four-inch girl from Lima. —Nate Zoller