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How Johanne Defay Is Spending Her Time Out Of The Water

The WSL recently caught up with World Number Eight Johanne Defay who was at home on Reunion Island, enjoying some downtime before air travel resumed, enabling her to travel to France, where surfers have recently been allowed to get back in the water and enjoy some waves after an easing of Covid19 restrictions.

Johanne Defay has been quarantined at home in Reunion Island for the last two months. But even if the lockdown rules are eased, and the beaches are reopened, Defay won't be able to surf -- a series of shark attacks mean all surfing has been banned on the island, since 2012.

That leaves the World No.8 in an unfortunate position as an elite athlete. Her year, which would have included representing France in the 2020 Olympics, as been completely upended.

MAUI, UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 1: Johanne Defay of France is presented with a congratulatory momento for her provisional 2020 Olympic qualification at the 2019 Lululemon Maui Pro at Honolua Bay on December 1, 2019 in Maui, United States.  (Photo by Cait M Johanne Defay WSL / Cait Miers

"Usually I travel and compete nine months of the year and come back to Reunion Island for short breaks," Defay told the WSL. "I have time with the family and it's okay if I don't surf. It adds balance and I really look forward to the events so I can surf."

The natural footer is now working on trying to relocate to France, which although currently in lockdown, should hopefully be open to surfing in the not-to-distant future. However, with all air travel currently in suspension she is unsure about if, or when, that may be possible. In the meantime, she's been keeping busy and attempting to maintain her positivity, one of her defining characteristics.

"I've training and running a lot. I've also been doing a lot of drawing, cooking and yoga. There's been a lot of puzzles, oh and a lot of box sets," she laughed. "However I don't feel myself when I'm not in the ocean. In the water I'm in my element. So some days are really hard."

She points out that while this situation is brought on by Covid-19, not surfing has long been a reality on Reunion Island.

"It's been eight years that we have been forbidden to surf at some of the best breaks," she says. "And it has largely gone unnoticed and we have felt that no one really cares. Maybe surfers around the world will now understand the situation the locals surfers here have been in."

Yet despite the uncertainty, Defay is determined to keep training and stay focused. Her Final at the Surf Ranch in 2019 kickstarted an excellent finish to the year and cemented her Olympic spot. While the ocean is currently off limits, her commitment has never wavered.

Johanne Defay Comes Out Swinging, Drops a 9.33
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The surfer from France negotiates a critical tube ride in her opening heat at the Freshwater Pro pres. by Outerknown.

"This will pass and I will be ready," she says simply. "The only goal is to get back in the ocean. That's where I am happiest and, right now, that's all that matters."

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