ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — A St. Lucie County firefighter is making a big name for herself in the spearfishing world.
Julie Higgs is now a two-time national champion in the sport, earning herself a spot on the USA team that will compete to be world champions in the growing sport next summer.
Days out on the water aren’t exactly for leisure for Higgs. Each outing helps sharpen her skills she’s now using to compete at the highest level.
"I think my strength is I go out all the time," Higgs said.
Higgs is a true Florida girl, mastering a true Florida sport.
"I have so many good memories spearfishing," Higgs said.
She grew up diving and started spearfishing as a young teen.
"I shot my first fish when I was 13," Higgs said. "The first thing I shot was a lobster, which is legal in the Bahamas. The second thing I shot was a strawberry grouper and from then on it was every summer, spearfish all summer."
In 2014, Higgs crushed her first ever tournament.
"I shot so many big fish, they didn’t even add up my score. They just put the infinity mark," Higgs said.
That was just the start of a competitive streak for Higgs. Her flexible schedule with the fire department she said helped her make time to spend competing in tournaments around the country.
"In the last three years I've done 20," Higgs said.
And the last two years, she’s won national championships in the sport. Two back-to-back wins got her on the USA team, competing at the world level next summer in Spain.
"We do act like this is the Olympics of spearfishing because we are representing the United States," Higgs said.
Higgs even holds seven world records in the sport, making a name for herself in a long male-dominant sport. She said women didn’t start competing at the world level until about 2018.
Now there’s a shift in the competition that she’s seeing more and more.
"Women are definitely coming into the sport more. I think part of it is social media encouraging women to come out. There are more tournaments giving nicer prizes to women," Higgs said.
With less than a year to get ready to represent Florida and the U.S. on the world level, she’s also showing women their potential to take the sea by storm.
"I encourage women to do it because it’s been great for me and I think it would be great for other women as well," Higgs said.
The team is looking for support raising money for all of the tournament and travel costs to get to the world competition in Spain next summer. To donate, click here.