When a Hawaiian swimsuit company approached surfing pro Joy Monahan and offered to be her sponsor, the Honolulu native had some reservations. “I told them, ‘I really only wear modest one-piece suits.’” So they worked with Joy to design a swimsuit that was both modest and functional for surfing. They even named it after her, and it has since become one of the more popular swimsuits of their line.
It’s also the one Joy wore last July in Biarritz, France, where at age 23 she topped 47 international competitors to become the Women’s World Longboard Champion. The first surfer from Hawaii to win that honor, she calls the experience the fulfillment of a longtime dream.
“I just started to cry when I heard the final horn blow and I knew that I had won,” she says with a smile that stretches almost as long as her surfboard. “I’d worked so hard on that goal.”
Joy stands out not only on the waves, but also among her peers for her high standards. She says that most people know she won’t do things like smoke or drink, and they respect her decisions.
“At the awards ceremony after the championship, the girls were spraying each other with champagne. Most of the girls knew that I didn’t drink, but one girl poured a beer on my head,” she explains. “The other girls were like, ‘You can’t do that to her!’ So she came back with a water bottle and sprayed me with water instead.”
Being “the Mormon girl” and sticking to her principles isn’t always easy, Joy says. “For example, it’s hard, wherever you live, to be modest because so much of fashion is very revealing. It takes a little bit of courage to stand out and be different.”
But it’s worth it. “Whether it’s easy or it’s hard, do what you know is right. Then you can feel good about yourself.”
Joy lives up to her name. She’ll quickly tell you that the joy she feels comes from living the gospel. “It changes lives and makes them better. Along with my family, it’s my number one priority.”
Photographs by Sean Rowland/Getty Images