Johanne Defay

posted in: French Female Surfers

Johanne Defay was born on November 19 1993 in Le Puy-en-Velay, Auvergne, France. She began surfing at the age of 8 of the beaches of Reunion Island, which is her home today. For those of you who have never heard of Reunion Island, well…. it is a region of France in the Indian Ocean, 109 miles east of Madagascar southwest of Mauritius. What is chilling about this island, especially if you are a water lover, is back in 2013 the government banned swimming, body boarding and surfing due to 10 shark attacks in only 2 years. The beach had since opened following the installation of shark barriers and even monitoring technology to survey sharks in the area. The island was once a prized destination on the pre-WSL ASP World Tour and regularly featured in surf movies since the early ‘90s. But since the string of deadly attacks, the surfing world has shied away from the Indian Ocean isle, leaving many of those world-class lineups eerily empty. Perhaps now, with the nets and scouts, so many perfect waves won’t go unridden.

After Johanne’s first competition when she was only ten years old, she quickly moved through the European amateur ranks to eventually take on the WSL World Qualifying Series. In 2008 she almost gave up competing. Finding it difficult to step up from the juniors to the WQS and then when the economy crashed sending surf companies pulling sponsorships, the French surfer girl found herself without sponsors and without decent results. With her parent’s encouragement she decided it’d be a big shame to just let those years of competing and training come to nothing. So with a plan in motion, Johanne was able to qualify for the WCT within two years.

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In 2014 she qualified for the World Championship tour and since then she has been surprising everyone with powerful surfing and solid results. With the help of fellow surfer, Jérémy Flores who helped to support Johanne financially, she was able to compete on the tour again. During that time on the tour she had a lot of highs and lows within a short space of time and Jérémy helped her deal with it and keep pursuing her dreams. “That’s the kind of advice you need from people who are experienced in life on the tour”, says Johanne, “When you see someone like Carissa Moore traveling with her dad, boyfriend, coach and cameraman, it’s those people who all offer invaluable support.”

In the year of 2016, Johanne showcased her talents in her powerful turns in the surf. The young Frenchwoman set the rhythm early by unleashing vertical maneuvers to earn a near-perfect 9.20. The ever-smiling girl from Reunion Island beat Courtney, Bethany Hamilton and Carissa Moore – three of the most experienced surfers at Cloudbreak, Fiji.

One of Johanne’s best friends and traveling partner is South African, Bianca Buitendag. Both of them striving to be in the top ten female surfer on the planet. With Buitendag ranked #4 and Defay ranked #8 in the 2015 Women’s Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour, they are both definitely on their way to the top.

When Johanne was asked if she thought women surfers peak earlier than men, she stated that right now there isn’t a woman on the profession tour who is over 30. Whereas the men seem to be getting older and older – just look at Kelly Slater who’s 45. What strikes Johanne, interestingly enough, is that the men seem more at ease on the World Tour than the women. And the fact what seems true across any sport is that when men want to start a family, they don’t need to stop competing. So when Johanne asked Steph Gilmore about this recently, she told said she sees herself sticking on the tour a while longer. Stephanie likes the lifestyle, traveling, she’s not tied down.

Her world travels have inspired her to create art and painting. To her, surfing is her life but her art is a great escape when she finds her constantly chasing her ultimate goal—a world title.

Surfing Career

2018 1st Uluwatu CT – Bali

2017 9th WSL Ranking
2017 3rd Roxy Pro Gold Coast – Australia
2017 2nd Oi Rio Women’s Pro – Brazil

2016 5th WSL Ranking
2016 1st Fiji Women’s Pro – Fiji
2016 3rd Roxy Pro Gold Coast – Australia

2015 8th World Championship Tour
2015 3rd Fiji Women’s Pro – Fiji
2015 5th Rip Curl Pro Bell’s Beach – Australia
2015 1st Vans US Open of Surfing – California
2015 5th Cascais Women’s Pro – Portugal
2015 5th Roxy Pro – France

2014 ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – 8th on Final Ranking
2014 3rd Swatch Women’s Pro – California
2014 3rd Roxy Pro – France
2014 5th Fiji Women’s Pro – Fiji
2014 5th Vans US Open of Surfing – California
2014 5th Cascais Women’s Pro – Portugal
2014 5th Target Maui Pro – Hawaii

2013 3rd Junior World Championship Florianopolis – Brazil
2013 1st France Champion Brétignolles sur Mer – France
2013 1st Pontevedra Junior Pro Surf – Spain
2013 Open European Champion
2013 Junior European Champion
2013 Finalist of the 6 stars WQS Swatch Girls Pro – France
2013 1st Swatch Girls Junior Pro – France
2013 1st Soöruz Junior Pro – France
2013 1st Gijòn Junior Pro – Spain
2013 2nd O’Neil Junior Pro – Spain
2013 1st Soöruz Junior Pro – France
2013 4th Coupe de France – France

Height: 5’5”

Surfboard Shaper: Channel Islands

Johanne Defay’s Sponsors

Wakanda | GoPro Cameras | Smith Optics | Superdry Surf Company | Smoothstar Skateboards | Tim Spirit | Seventyone Percent Skincare

Johanne Defay Videos