Pierre Agnes (see photo), 54, had ventured out at around 7:30 am (0630 GMT) and the boat washed up later at Hossegor, a famed surfing spot about 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of Biarritz, the local prefecture said in a statement.
Rescue services were unable to say if the Frenchman had been alone.
Three helicopters and two boats were searching for Agnes while agents scoured the coast.
Rough seas were reported in the area, though wind was light and visibility was clear.
— PierreAlex (@PierreAlex_B) January 30, 2018
Quiksilver, an iconic Australian surfwear company now based in the United States, recently changed its name to Boardriders, regrouping its other brands including DC Shoes and the Roxy clothing brand.
Agnes, who joined the company nearly 30 years ago, was long based at Quiksilver's European headquarters in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, just south of Biarritz.
Earlier this month Boardriders said it was preparing to buy its Australian rival Billabong, creating a group that would have a combined 630 stores in 28
An American investment group, Oaktree Capital, controls Boardriders and already owns 19 percent of Billabong.