Whether she's slamming volleyballs into the sand or showing skin for the world's top fashion magazines, Gabrielle Reece, one of pro beach volleyball's best female players and the current captain of powerful Team Nike, is a striking physical presence. A 6'3" hardbody, Reece also has a sharp, probing mind. It is this less-obvious side of Reece that informs her thoughtful autobiography, a book notable not only for its subject's account of her inspiring journey but also for her brutal honesty.
That frankness is most refreshing when Reece discusses her personal life. From her tale of feeling abandoned at age 3½ by her mother, who went to Mexico City to train dolphins for the circus, to the mocking reference to her superintense boyfriend, big-wave surfing icon Laird Hamilton, as the Yoko Ono of the Pro Beach Volleyball Tour, Reece's fierce sense of self unfolds in a clear and logical manner. She has a great deal to say about the empowerment of women and the stereotypes that confront them. Yet Reece is hardly a traditional feminist. "I'm willing to be a babe for a living," she says early in the book, and as her story is revealed it becomes easy to decipher the origins of her cynicism. Subjected as a child to taunts about her height, Reece developed a hard edge. She also developed a firm philosophy: For her, self-satisfaction can only be realized through hard work and continuously pushing one's limits, an ethos that has made her a forceful presence on the beach-volleyball tour.
Reece's story is told in chapters that alternate between her first-person narrative and co-author Karbo's detailed account of Reece's 1996 season. The campaign turns out to be a disastrous one for Team Nike, the four-woman ensemble of which Reece is the captain, de facto coach and chief decision-maker. Reece's struggles with team chemistry, motivation and leadership are intriguing, and she has plenty to say to women in particular about the value of confronting ungracious displays of emotions from others and of being assertive.