Johanne Defay, winner of the 2016 Fiji Women’s Pro, showered smiles on the congregation in the Cloudbreak channel, and more smiles still as she returned triumphant to Tavarua, resplendent in pink and bearing aloft the flag of her homeland.
The tightly packed Réunion Island cherub grew more adorable, more dangerous as the day wore on, felling newly anointed world no. 1 Courtney Conlogue and thwarting wildcard sensation Bethany Hamilton before sweeping aside strong favourite Carissa Moore in the final. (I hope you appreciate the time it took to alight upon those three synonyms for “beating”.) This is the 22-year-old’s second event win on the world tour, the first having come at Huntington Beach last year.
And just when you thought women’s surfing was, yes, of a higher standard than ever before, but also becoming maybe a shade predictable. This year’s Fiji Women’s Pro was, it must be said, a resounding success; a roaring one, even. The high-water mark so far of women’s surfing, perhaps? Strange to think that only two years ago, in the wake of the very same event, SE’s Paul Evans wondered if women’s surfing hadn’t just reached its lowest ebb.