The girl garnishing the seascape on this week's cover would satisfy the qualifications for most magazine covers, being what she is—beautiful and blonde and blue-eyed. It would be more fitting, however, if a cover girl for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED not only looked seaworthy in a bikini but in fact was also a swimming champion. And could spear a dozen crayfish in half an hour. And could shoot straight, ski parallel, fly a plane and win at tennis. And could surf, break 100 playing golf, and, in a pinch, cook. Well, get a grip on your snorkels, gentlemen, because in Cover Girl Sunny Bippus you are looking at just that ideal synthesis of pretty girl and sportswoman.
Margaret Caroline Bippus is the daughter of a Palm Beach surgeon. When she is not hitting golf or tennis balls at the country club or crashing around after duck and quail on the family's farm in north Florida, she lives in New York. Her sporting life got its start when she was 10. Polio weakened her muscles, and she was directed to swim for therapy. Her parents hired John (Sandy) Eiler, a well-known Palm Beach swimming instructor. Each morning at 5:30 and every evening after school Sandy Eiler had Sunny Bippus in the pool. "I froze," she says. "But I swam six miles a day. I wasn't allowed to dance, drink soft drinks or eat fried foods. I was training. I was so skinny that the kids called me Bag-of-Bones Bippus."
What Bag-of-Bones Bippus coveted most in those early days, besides a more rounded-out nickname, was a speedboat. Eventually her father tired of hearing her talk about it. He promised her one if she won a particular meet in La Grange, Ga., where Sunny was to swim against older, more advanced swimmers. Sunny got the speedboat—and she went on from that triumph to win hundreds of swimming medals.
When she tired of the training routine of a competitive swimmer she was able to choose from all the other sports available to anyone living in Florida's year-round outdoor climate. At present she feels her equipment is barely adequate: a set of golf clubs, two tennis rackets, 12-, 20-and 28-gauge shotguns, a surfboard, one water ski ("It's easier than using two"), snow skis, fly rods, plugs and scuba gear.
When in New York, where she has sold diamonds at Tiffany's, designed sports clothes and modeled for a suit house, she is a one-woman campaign to break down the membership barriers against attractive unmarried girls at most of the town's tennis clubs.
While she was with us in the Exumas (page 28) she not only modeled the season's new swimsuits but filled the chef's pot with crayfish and grouper—though she came home empty-handed from a bonefishing excursion. (Her only other sporting failure of record occurred in 1953 when someone dared her to ride a Brahma bull. She lasted only five seconds.)
She thought nothing of diving scubaless to depths of 40 feet in the clear Exuma waters. "But you mustn't be carried away with all this," says Sunny, wrinkling her sunburned nose. "All the girls I grew up with can do these things."