The tragedy behind French surfing champion’s amazing Australian gap year

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Like many young backpackers, she dreamed of a life of fun and adventure in sunny Australia.

But these are the last pictures of the tragic French surfing champion Poéti Norac, who died suddenly while on the Sunshine Coast.

The 24-year-old model died after moving to Australia for a trip-of-a-lifetime to pursue her surfing dream, which had already seen her scoop national trophies. 

The popular athlete had been working and travelling in the country for more than a year, moving around the east coast and even enjoyed a trip to Tahiti. 

In an emotional social media post just months before her death, Ms Norac told friends to ‘keep doing what you love’.

‘No matter how many times you “fail”, how many “mistakes” you make, you are not wasting your time,’ she said.

Police confirmed to Daily Mail Australia her death was not being treated as suspicious. 

‘You are learning. And as long as you keep doing what you love with passion and working hard for what you really want, it’s always worth it in the end.’

She had spent the year enjoying the delights of Byron Bay, Noosa and the Sunshine Coast – backpacking hot spots known for their enviable surf conditions.

But tragedy struck as the aspiring athlete lost her life under mysterious circumstances last weekend.

Her devastated parents are understood to have left France for Australia on Thursday to recover their daughter’s body. 

A childhood friend said the bright and bubbly surfer had ‘worn a happy mood for everybody’. 

Emma Piart wrote a tribute to the athlete, explaining that she had come to Australia to pursue her ‘surfing passion’.   

‘For me it is a great suffering to lose a special sister with whom I’d grown up with,’ she said.

‘We will remember her laugh and her good mood she wore for everybody.’ 

But in a question and answer video posted to YouTube, Ms Norac hinted there was a darker side to her year of adventure in Australia. 

‘I would recommended that my previous boss goes out of his comfortable little bubble, so he might understand that backpackers also deserve respect, as every human does’, she said in the cryptic video.

She had worked in a gardening centre potting plants during her backpacking adventure, but had also looked for farm work to secure her second year’s working holiday visa. 

Ms Norac said the job was ‘pretty boring’ as she was doing the ‘same thing every day’, but was happy to be able to improve her English skills.

She had been a major player in French surfing, coming second in the national championships in 2018 and third in 2016.

A statement by the French Surfing Federation said the sport had lost a ‘young and talented’ surfer who had spread her ‘passion’ for the sport. 

Ms Norac had started surfing with her father at the age of six, taking to the sea in the coastal town of Les Sables d’Olonne.

She shared pictures of herself enjoying the sea and surf with family and friends all over the world. 

After initially surfing on a shortboard, she later took up longboarding and had been competing in that discipline for 10 years.

‘The surfing family is in mourning. She was an outstanding educator and transmitted her passion for sliding and the ocean,’ the federation said.

‘The surf community has lost a family member, a beautiful person with a radiant smile, an artist on her board and whose enthusiasm radiated in the Vendée [region]and everywhere else.

‘A ceremony in tribute to Poéti will take place soon, which we will inform you of the date and place.

‘The Federation of French surf sends its deepest condolences to her parents, loved ones, friends and to the surf club of St Gilles Croix de Vie. Poéti is gone, but will stay in our hearts.’

For confidential support call the Lifeline 24-hour crisis support on 13 11 14. 

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