In 1989 a six-foot-three green-eyed blonde stood out as a kick-butt volleyball player at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Gabrielle Reece led the NCAA in kills and held school records in solo and total blocks, which still stand. That year Elle magazine named her one of the five most beautiful women in the world. Reece, a new sort of role model, had arrived: ripped, ultracompetitive, ultrafeminine.
Reece claims to have been a late bloomer, not having a real clue about her athletic potential until she was 17 or so. "I was six-foot-three at 15," she says. "Goofy does not to begin to describe my efforts to do a cartwheel."
After college, Reece continued her hybrid career, captaining the four-person Team Nike for the Women's Beach Volleyball League while also appearing in magazines and hosting TV shows, like The Extremists with Gabrielle Reece, on which she met her husband, the big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton.
Now 42, Reece still graces magazine covers in her bikini -- she once joked that she was a babe for a living -- while parenting three daughters. She currently holds free training sessions at the community center near where she and her family live, in Kauai, Hawaii, and is working on a new book. Her greatest achievement, Reece says, is being able to live in a way that reflects who she really is. "I might feel differently if I had won a bunch of gold medals, but all the fanfare, being voted the most whatever, comes and goes," she says. "I've been fortunate to live this physically active life."