French surfer Johanne Defay recently qualified for the ASP Women’s World Tour, but she wasn’t sure how she was going to make it to the first event of 2014, the Roxy Pro at Snapper Rocks in Australia. That’s because she currently lacks a major sponsor. This summer, the 19-year-old surfer won five out of seven ASP European Junior events and also placed well in the prime-rated World Qualifying Series contests—all while working part time as a waitress in France.
Despite her top-notch results, due to the lingering effects of the global financial crisis, many pro surfers competing on the men’s and women’s ASP World Tours have lost sponsorships. They must rely on prize money to get to and from events, which can be challenging, especially if they find themselves on the wrong end of an off day. In other words, having or losing a sponsor literally can make or break a career.
While Defay has been actively seeking sponsorship from brands that traditionally fund surfing, help has come from an unlikely source: Jeremy Flores. The former ASP Rookie of the Year and Pipeline Master’s champion recently stepped in to sponsor Defay, who also hails from Flores’s home in Reunion Island, to give her the financial support necessary to begin her first year on tour. Flores’s decision to sponsor Defay is the first time in surfing that a pro has gotten direct backing from another pro.
“I am very touched by the gesture that Jeremy did for me,” said Defay. “I find it very human and it motivates me for next year!”
“Johanne is a girl who deserves it; she worked hard to get where she is today,” said Flores. “I hope that all of France is behind her on her first year on the World Tour. She doesn’t have any main sponsors, and it’s a shame because she is a great girl who worked really hard to get to the best in the world. So I’m proud to be able to help her financially, and I will be helping her technically on tour also—some tips that can help her, I hope. It’s a great experience for her and I’m sure she will do great! She’s a Réunion Island girl just like me; it’s an honor.”
Defay is hoping to travel to South Africa soon to train with tour vets Bianca Buitendag and fellow French competitor Pauline Ado in anticipation of the start of 2014.
“I want to go to South Africa soon and try to talk with Bianca and Pauline, maybe try to travel with them next year,” she told the ASP. “I have so many questions for them. I know I need to stay in the same mindset, but it will probably be a lot harder. There will be new people, new sites, more media—I don’t know how I’ll handle all that.
There’s so much I need to do in the coming weeks: surf trips, training camps, and events. It will all become very real in February when Snapper approaches. I’ll try to get there early to try to acclimate.”
Here’s a video of the Defay and Buitendag surfing there earlier this year.
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