Johanne Defay remains an unheralded hero of the women’s Championship Tour. Since joining the elite ranks in 2014 she’s been a leading crusader in the push for more progressive surfing. While her big Tour victories at the Vans US Open in 2015 and Fiji in 2016 speak volumes to her threat level, her larger influence on the rest of the women’s field comes in the form of single explosive moves, like the inverted nose-pick reverse she pulled at the Roxy Pro in 2016. Defay is dangerous in any condition thanks to her big bag of tricks and her mastery of surfing’s figure-eight fundamentals. She formulated her ambitious style at home on Reunion Island, a tiny green speck in the middle of the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mauritius. Her path to the pros, however, went through her birthplace in France, where she led her country to its first world amateur title. Her road through the Qualifying Series was tougher. Sponsors were in short supply at the time, but Johanne’s family and fellow Reunion Island surfer Jeremy Flores, a longtime believer in her, kept her going. She finally made the grade in 2013, after three long years of grinding on the QS. While she certainly had down moments, Johanne’s sunny disposition has never wavered. She’s a fitness freak who loves tough workouts, and if there’s trails in the vicinity she loves hiking and biking. Defay won the Qualifying Series in 2017 after taking two wins and has finished in the Top 10 every year on the Champoinship Tour since qualifying. Her No. 5 finish in 2016 is proof she has the tools to make a title run, and as the judging criteria shifts toward favoring bigger moves, we shouldn’t be surprised if Johanne makes a big jump.
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