Is it thanks to her father that Réunionnaise Johanne Defay is surfing today.
Born far inland in France's mountainous Auvergne region, Defay began surfing on the overseas island of Réunion, where she now lives. Her father, a keen catcher of waves, wanted his daughter to follow in his footsteps out into the ocean. She initially showed reluctance, so he patiently waited until she had turned eight and when he tried his luck again she obliged.
Once Defay began competing from the age of 10, things quickly accelerated for the young surfer. After outgrowing the competitions on Reunion Island, Defay moved back to France to uncover what other rivals might be capable of. By 14 she surged above the rest and was selected for the French national team. A year later, she won her first Junior European Champion Title (the youngest to win at the time) and participated in her first World Championship.
Defay’s journey to the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT) was littered with struggles. At the time the regular-footed surfer was trying to progress through the Qualifying Series, her sponsors dropped her, leaving her in grave doubt as to whether she could continue. With the support of her parents and fellow French surfer Jeremy Flores, Defay finally made it to the elite league in 2014, three years after beginning her qualification grind.
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