Carissa Moore: What you don't know about the Tokyo 2020 gold medal contender

Hawaii's four-time surfing world champion is one of the most dominant surfers in history, now on a quest for surfing’s inaugural Olympic gold. But in addition to setting records, did you know the American has a day named after her? 

6 min By Ashlee Tulloch
(Picture by 2021 World Surf League)
Carissa Moore is a surfing champion. But if you ask her, she would say she is a daughter, sister, friend, and wife first and foremost.

The 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2019 World Surf League champion has a reputation for being joyful and genuine, and that’s exactly what she aspires to be.

Those qualities are evident whenever she competes, but here are some facts you might not know about know the American, who has booked her spot at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021 for Team USA.

Carissa Moore - Record breaker with a day named for her

The 28-year-old is one of the most successful surfers in history.

In her first season on the world tour she won two contests and finished the season third overall. At 17, she was named rookie of the year.

A year later in 2011, when Kelly Slater won his 11th world title, she won her first. At 18 years, old she holds the record for the youngest world champion.

Since then she’s gone on to join an elite group who have won four or more surfing world titles: Slater, Stephanie Gilmore, Layne Beachley, and Mark Richards.

In April 2021, she tied Wendy Botha's record of 24 Championship Tour career victories, and has shown no signs of stopping.

As one of two American women qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021, making history at the Olympics is one new feat on the horizon.

She already has her own day. January 4 is declared ''Carissa Moore Day'' in her home State of Hawaii. What more could await if she came home with Olympic gold?

Trailblazer: Pushing progression of women’s surfing

Moore is fearless in her pursuit of doing what she loves. Sure, she might get nervous or have fears, as any human does, but she’s able to manage and conquer them. A good reason why she’s won so many world titles.

She’s also not daunted about who or what she’s up against.

Growing up in Hawaii, competing on the North Shore, she spent her early years as a child prodigy competing against men. Think two-time world champion John John Florence.

In 2011, as a 16-year-old she became the first woman to compete in the typically all-male series, the Vans Triple Crown of surfing, recognised as some of the heaviest waves in Hawaii.

Then, come December 2020, she was part of history as the women’s WSL Championship Tour competed at Hawaii’s iconic Pipeline for the first time.

She made it to the final, and finished runner up to two-time world champion Tyler Wright.

Moore also stole the show in the quarterfinals of the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup in Australia in April 2021, with a massive air reverse.

The American rode up the wave and took to the air, spinning her board approximately 270 degrees, before landing backwards and spinning on her fins to complete the rotation.

She looked shocked after landing the biggest aerial of her career.

A WSL Commentator suggested it was a defining moment in surfing, while Stab Magazine called it ‘’the best aerial ever seen in women’s competition”.

While aerial surfing has been a familiar aspect of men’s competition, it’s still in it's infancy on the women's tour.

In an Instagram live interview with us in September 2020, she shared that improving her above the wave surfing was one of her key aims for the Tokyo Games in 2021.

Moore continues to show she's keen to push the limits, and is an inspiration for many young female surfers.

“I'm inspired by those who live authentically and have the courage to be vulnerable. My dream is to encourage others to live their passions, be unapologetically themselves and to take the time for others and the world around them.” - Carissa Moore.

Championing surfing’s future

As well as leading the charge for herself, and the other elite women on tour, she’s also taking practical steps to help the next generation.

Moore is committed to her community and the natural environment. Her vessel is the ocean.

In 2018, Moore and her father Chris, who is also her coach, founded a non-profit mentorship group called Moore Aloha Charitable Foundation. Their aim is to use surfing as a platform to empower and inspire young girls and women and bring them together in and around water.

“The goal is to give back and encourage them to be strong, beautiful, confident young women – and also to give back in turn.”

Adversity has made her stronger

Moore is renowned for her bubbly persona, big smile, and polite manners. She epitomizes the Hawaiian 'aloha' way of life.

She’s comfortable talking to the media and has been in the game long enough to know how to play hard and work smart.

When it comes to competing, if she’s dialled in, she’s hard to beat. But behind the optimism and positive personality, she’s faced challenges which she believes have made her stronger.

Her parents divorced when she was 10. Moore has said was a tough time in her young life, and has spoken about struggling with confidence and body issues during her teenage years.

As her career has progressed, she’s encountered many challenges, but she’s also not been afraid of making changes.

In 2015 she won her third world title and what followed was somewhat of a three-year slump.

“I’m definitely performance driven, so I’m always wanting to improve. Every year I’m learning lessons, transforming as a person and as an athlete,” Carissa told Red Bull.

“A big objective is to compete out of a place where it’s not a roller coaster of emotions. I’ve learned a lot about how to lose and how to pick myself back up when things aren’t working.”

It wasn’t until December 2018, when she won the Maui Pro with a perfect 10 ride, that she believes she found her footing again, having adjusted her outlook and approach to competitive surfing.

She switched her focus away from results and other people’s validation.

“I was finally like, ‘No, none of that matters. I'm a daughter, I'm a sister. I'm a friend, I'm a wife", says Moore, whose husband is her high school boyfriend.

The re-evaluation helped, and come 2019 she stormed through a dominant season to clinch her fourth title world crown. Moore was back.

Carissa Moore the surf champ who loves a nap

Amid all the energy she exudes, there's no doubt Moore also needs time to recover.

And in an interview with the Olympics in 2018, she revealed her love for napping... almost anywhere.

"I have definitely fallen asleep under physio tables at (surfing) events, on the ground. I would put that up there as one of the weirder places," she shared. "I like airport floors or quiet spots in the big tents at our events, somewhere no one can find me."

Moore definitely deserves that timeout, but once she's rested it won't be long before this star is back on the waves and enjoying the surf.

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