As a woman in a seriously masculine sport, the 48th-ranked female surfer in the world, Bruna Schmitz, balances being both an athlete and a Sports Illustrated model.
Born in the quiet beach town of Matinhos in southern Brazil, Bruna Schmitz’s sponsored by Reef scandals, makes a cool five figures a year and does what she loves for a living. But unless you’re a surfer, or you’ve “read” the 2011 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, you’ve probably never heard her name.
At only 21, Schmitz travels the globe competing on the women’s ASP tour, where she's ranked 48th in the world among women surfers by the Association of Surfing Professionals.
After winning over 100 titles during her amateur career, and 30 titles since going pro, she says the title that stands out most is the one she won at 13.
“I was [very] young, so that made me want it more and more, gave me motivation,” Schmitz says.
But being a woman in a seriously masculine sport has to weigh on this young beauty. Women's professional surfing is a multi-million dollar industry with some of the most lucrative merchandising opportunities in the world. According to the British Surfing Association (BSA), the number of amateur female surfers has gone up by more than 300 percent since 2002, and public interest in female surfing is increasing.
But the numbers of women competitors is still smaller compared with men. Matt Warshaw, in his 2008 New York Times article Surfing: A History, estimates there are about 5 million people in the world who surf, and only 10 to 15 percent of them are women.
Schmitz seems to take her great looks and shredding skills in the water all in stride. When asked about how she balances the athlete part with the Sports Illustrated model part she says, “I appreciate being able to do both. I never saw it [modeling] as making me less of a surfer. After all, being in a bikini is part of my job.”
Brazil may be most quickly associated with Capoeria, Samba, Carnaval, Brazilian bikinis, and soccer, but lately it’s a country fast becoming known for its renowned surfers. In the last decade, Brazilian surfing has become a major player in the world's biggest wave-riding circuit, with a growing number of surfers winning and reaching the highest honors.
“Brazilians are known for being very aggressive in the water. I think it’s something we carry with us. We have a famous saying; ‘I’m Brazilian and I will never give up’,” she says.
Outside of surfing and traveling to compete, Schmitz says she’s a girly girl who enjoys spending time at home with family. Her favorite places to surf?
“I love the Mentawai Islands and the lefts in New Caledonia,” she said. “And I love to spend the winters in Hawaii.”
Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for FoxNews.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.