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Gabrielle Reece

Around The World In 15 Years

"Sometimes I think the only reason my mother was put on earth was to give birth to me," says Reece in her book Big Girl in the Middle. It was clear to her early in life that if things were going to get done, it would have to be by herself, as she found her mother to be unreliable. After being born in California and spending the first two years of her life in Trinidad, she was abandoned by her mom in Long Island at the age of three. Reece's mother left her with friends who were reliable, but unfortunately at the age of seven, her mother requested she come live with her and her new husband. This was devastating for Reece. From there she lived in Puerto Rico then on to St. Thomas in the Caribbean. All of this turmoil caused Reece to act out with frustration. Her mother had the insight to realize her daughter was going nowhere good living in St. Thomas, so they uprooted and moved to Florida.

That was the best move she could have made, because that is where Reece finally found an outlet for all her tension through sports. At the Catholic high school she attended in St. Petersburg, Florida, she was recruited for basketball and volleyball simply due to her height. Reece eventually realized she really enjoyed playing and had found her niche in the world.

Florida is also where Reece was led into the modeling scene. A friend of the family encouraged her to get some portraits done and take some modeling classes. That same friend sent Reece's photos to an agent who was ready to fly her off to Paris, France immediately. Her mother put the breaks on that, as at seventeen she felt her daughter was too young. Looking back, Reece concurs with her mother's decision, as she was not ready for that kind of life. Staying in Florida allowed her to really develop her skills in volleyball and learn some self-discipline. After Reece was in college the agent called on her again, and that is when she took off as a model. She had an agreement with the volleyball coach at Florida State that when she was playing volleyball, that should be the focus, but the off-season was her choice. This caused some problems with the other players who would train during the off-season, but obviously this did not phase Reece.


1970 Born January 6, 1970 in La Jolla, California
1972 Divorce of Reece's mother and father
1972 Mother leaves Reece in Long Island with friends to go off and pursue a job training dolphins in Mexico City
1975 Reece's father is killed in a plane crash
1977 Mother sends for Reece to be sent to Puerto Rico to live with her and her new husband
1978 Moves to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands
1983 Diagnosed with an ulcer
1984 Divorce of mother and stepfather
1986 Moves to Florida where she begins participating in sports at a Christian high school
1986 Offered opportunity to model in Europe, which she declines due to her mother's disapproval
1988 Offered volleyball scholarship by Cecile Reynaud with Florida State University
1988 Begins modeling half the year in New York, going to college the other half
1991 Earns Bachelor of Arts from Florida State
1992 Begins playing beach volleyball professionally
1993 Works on MTV Sports and MTV's show The Extremists
1994 Begins playing for team Nike
1997 Co-authors book Big Girl in the Middle
1997 Marries long-time boyfriend, Laird Hamilton on November 30
1997 Ends four-person volleyball career
1999 Begins two-person volleyball career
2000 Begins training with Gravity Golf
2001 Begins working on golf with Butch Harmon School of Golf
2001 Files for divorce from Hamilton on January 20
2002 Appears in Discovery Channel's 15th edition of Shark Week
2002 Reconciles with husband Hamilton

Once Reece's college career had ended, she was at a loss for what to do with her life. She did some modeling, but she knew that was not where her passion was. In an interview with the Daily Paragraph, Reece stated, "modeling was a vehicle for me and I never viewed it as anything else but that. Sport felt instinctively like the right place to go." A friend intervened and suggested she try beach volleyball. She went professional in 1992 and left modeling behind for good. She became quite accomplished in the four-person beach volleyball circuit, earning many awards. During this time she became known for her risk-taking personality. This won her a few hosting positions for MTV. She hosted a show called The Extremists and MTV Sports. She took time off from volleyball from 1997 until 1999, during which she wrote a book and married husband Laird Hamilton. In 1999 she went back to the beach to play two-player volleyball. Two-player volleyball was a lot more work, and she discovered she was not as well suited for it.

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