Carissa Moore: the life of a Hawaiian surfing queen

August 24, 2021 | Surfing
Carissa Moore: one of the most successful surfers of all time | Photo: Red Bull

Carissa Moore is one of the most successful and influential female surfers of all time and a unique human being out of the water.

Depending on which language you speak, the name Carissa can mean beloved, grace, or kind.

But in the case of Carissa Moore, they are equally likely to mean world champion, phenomenon, and record-breaker.

The Hawaiian has been hailed as one of surfing's most exciting competitors since she was a grom, and she fulfilled that potential in 2011 when she became ASP World Tour champion.

Carissa Kainani Moore was born on August 27, 1992, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

She is the oldest daughter of Carol Lum and Christopher Moore. Cayla Moore, Carissa's younger sister, was born on April 18, 1997.

Moore started surfing aged five, introduced to the ocean by her father in the waves of Queen's Beach in Waikiki even before she started kindergarten.

"I was instantly hooked," she revealed.

Chris was a successful open-water swimmer who won numerous contests.

Her parents divorced when she was ten years old, and Carissa chose to stay with her father because he lived closer to the water.

While staying with her landlocked mother, Moore wrote letters to her father to keep herself motivated and somehow connected with her passion - surfing.

For Carissa, surfing started as a way of spending time with her father for what became very much a dual passion for father and daughter.

"What ignited my love for surfing was my dad," explained Moore.

"My dad was the one that pushed me into my first wave at five years old at Waikiki Beach, and I just absolutely loved sharing our time together in the water and riding waves together."

"So, it started that love that I got to share with my dad."

But he's still her coach and mentor.

"My dad has been there since the beginning, and I think he really pushes me to be a better surfer," she once revealed.

"He keeps me honest and motivates me to do my best."

Carissa Moore: she started surfing aged five | Photo: Chris Moore Archive

Turning Pro at 12

By age eight, Carissa Moore was regarded as a verifiable phenomenon, and by ten, she was the odds-on favorite in just about any amateur event she entered.

The media continually marveled at her skills: "an arsenal of aerial maneuvers unmatched by any surfer her age, ever," and "arguably the purest talent surfing [not just women's surfing, mind you, but surfing] has seen."

Moore possessed not only "the grace of a natural athlete" but true artistry.

When she hit 11, Carissa began winning National Scholastic Surfing Association Championships (NSSA) junior contests and conquered the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships.

By 12, the young surfer and his father had a first talk about her entering the pro ranks.

A precocious talent in her youth, the Hawaiian became a surfing trailblazer.

Before Carissa had even started her sophomore year in high school, Moore won 11 NSSA titles.

She was a student at Punahou School, the same prestigious institution attended by Barack Obama.

Carissa's first Triple Crown of Surfing win came in 2008 when the 16-year-old upset seven-time world champion Layne Beachley to take the Reef Hawaiian Pro title.

She was 16 and became the youngest-ever Triple Crown of Surfing event champion.

As an ASP Tour rookie in 2010, the surfer from the South Shore of Oahu was on fire, taking on hard-charging veterans to win multiple events.

The first ASP event win of her rookie season came in New Zealand in the spring of 2010.

Standing atop the podium for the TSB Bank Women's Surf Festival, Carissa announced that she was donating her entire $15,000 in winnings to the area's Waitara Bar Boardriders Club, a volunteer organization that provides a safe destination - and ocean education - for local kids.

By August, the rookie had scored another impressive win at the ASP 6-Star Women's US Open of Surfing, earning $50,000, the most well-paid first-place prize purse in women's surfing history.

And two months later, she notched an ASP win at the Rip Curl Pro in Portugal. Moore ended up being named Rookie of the Year 2010.

Carissa went on to claim the ASP World Tour title in 2011, becoming the youngest ever world surfing champion, male or female.

She achieved her dream at the age of just 18 in July 2011.

Later in December, the Hawaiian also became the first woman to secure a spot in the Men's Triple Crown of Surfing.

Carissa Moore: the first female surfer to compete in the Triple Crown of Surfing | Photo: Red Bull

The Carissa Effect

Carissa has always been a generous, giving-back person. It's part of who she is - an authentic, genuine and altruistic person.

In 2012, Moore joined a group of five professional surfers from all over Latin America to visit the coastal community of Panama, Costa Rica, and El Salvador.

The goal was to teach children between the ages of 8 and 12 how to surf and reuse plastic bottles.

It was part of the Granito de Arena project (or Little Bit of Sand, in English), a movement initiated by surfers intended to promote the care of the ocean through recycling plastic bottles and teaching kids how to surf.

"I learned about the Granito de Arena project during a recent trip to Panama a couple of months ago. I immediately fell in love with the concept and offered to help", mentioned Moore.

Over 1,000 bottles were collected in less than one hour in the fishing village of San Carlos in the Panama Bay Area, but as Carissa learned, "that's the same amount of bottles we throw away in the United States every second, one thousand!"

"I also learned that there is a garbage patch of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean two times the size of Texas!"

"I'm confident that by teaching these kids how to surf, they will have a new appreciation and understanding of the sea and will help take care of it."

The Granito de Arena surfers were amazed at the number of girls that showed up at the beach for the surf lesson.

They called it "The Carissa Effect."

Carissa Moore: a Hawaiian world surfing champion with an infectious smile | Photo: Red Bull

The Soul-Searching Era

In 2013, Carissa Moore won her second world surfing title and, one year later, she was inducted into the Surfers' Hall of Fame.

Following her third Championship Tour title in 2015, success was met with challenging years ahead, and the Hawaiian had to reevaluate her priorities.

In the book "First Priority: A Father's Journey Raising World Champion Carissa Moore," the surfer's dad reveals the details behind the quest to claim the 2015 title.

In 2016, the mayor of Honolulu and the state of Hawaii declared January 4 to be "Carissa Moore Day." But as a woman, she was struggling with her own thoughts and identity.

So, for a few years, Carissa embarked on an emotional soul-searching self-analysis. And that also required help from third parties.

Moore worked with a mental coach, as she often finds herself regressing to bad habits and negative thought patterns.

For instance, her changing body became the avatar of her anxiety.

The Hawaiian surfer once revealed that she has to constantly check in with herself and needs to contribute to society in order to fulfill her purpose.

Carissa Moore is different - not special - because she thinks outside of surfing.

She wants to make the world a better place, and that's what makes her feel good. And that's probably one of the reasons why Carissa is one of the most successful female surfers of all time.

"What really matters are quality people that believe in me and that have stuck with me through those ups and downs. Those are the opinions that matter," Moore underlines.

Carissa's mental (and life) coach has a sports psychology background and helped her sports-specific moments.

Her father, Chris, also shared swimming techniques he used in the past.

With time, Carissa Moore learned to be in the present and not worry about what happened in the past or control what's out of your control in the future.

To overcome that inner anxiety, she embraced several techniques and started to take a deep breath before talking to herself rationally and adopting rational thinking.

"This is a waste of energy" and "stop" are some of the self-taught lessons she introduced in her chain of thought.

"I sometimes think of positive imagery. A moment that makes me really happy usually calms me down," Moore notes.

"And then I say, 'Right here, right now,' and that's all I have control over. People probably see me talking to myself, and I probably look crazy!"

On her road to psychological recovery, the world champion married her high-school sweetheart Luke Untermann just before Christmas in 2017 in the back garden of a friend's Hawaiian home.

Carissa Moore is friends with fellow Hawaiian surfing legend Bethany Hamilton, who has also been on a peculiar road in life.

Hamilton was one of the 350 guests who attended Moore's wedding, including John John Florence, Coco Ho, Stephanie Gilmore, and Kelia Termini.

However, in 2018, after her confidence hit rock bottom at Jeffreys Bay.

Carissa's father, who had stepped aside for a while in 2016, reached out to her daughter, and a new strategy was put into action.

Carissa Moore: one of the first women surfers to land aerial maneuvers | Photo: Red Bull

The Road to Olympic Gold

Carissa Moore was ready to take over women's surfing - again.

She launched Moore Aloha, a 501C3 non-profit charitable foundation that uses surfing to bring young women together in and around water to share, encourage, inspire each other, and empower young women to be strong, confident, and compassionate individuals.

"I've always been chasing results and other people's validation. In 2019, I was finally like, 'No - none of that matters. I'm a daughter; I'm a sister. I'm a friend, and I'm a wife", declared Moore.

The Hawaiian claimed the 2019 WSL Women's Championship Tour title, qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and announced she would take a break from the professional surfing circuit.

A five-time world champion, there is not much more that Moore can leave behind in terms of a legacy of results. But when retirement does come, she wants it to be greater than that.

"When I eventually retire from surfing, I hope to look back on my career and more important than results and world titles, I hope that I left a lasting impression on surfing that I did surfing that inspired people and that was really memorable," Moore stated.

"The types of surfing that I remember or I was touched by are just different and that true sense of self. So, I hope I get to leave that on the sport."

Carissa Moore showed that she could be a force at surfing's Olympic debut in Tokyo after claiming a medal in the 2019 ISA World Surfing Games women's final in Japan.

"RISS. A Film about More Love with Carissa Kainani Moore" saw the light of day in 2020.

The documentary by director Peter Hamblin follows the surfer's path to giving back, inspiring the younger generation, and ultimately striving to be defined by more than just results.

In April 2021, the Hawaiian landed a spectacular air reverse at the Newcastle Cup in Australia, proving that women could become aerial powerhouses, too.

In August 2021, Carissa Moore was one of the four athletes of Team USA, ready to take on the waves of Tsurigasaki Beach, the Japanese Olympic surfing venue.

She took four years of Japanese in high school, so when she arrived at the training camp in Makinohara, Carissa gave a speech in the local language to thank them for hosting the American surfing team.

The local hosts were delighted, and Moore had her heart filled with drive and passion.

The truth is that Carissa Moore won the women's gold medal at surfing's debut in the Olympic Games after defeating South Africa's Bianca Buitendag in the final.

At a certain point in the decisive heat, a rainbow appeared on the horizon as if to celebrate the Hawaiian's historic achievement.

The native Hawaiian fulfilled Duke Kahanamoku's dream of having the sport included in the Olympics.

Whatever the future holds for Moore, she has already written a memorable chapter in surfing history.

Only legend Kelly Slater has won more world titles than Carissa among American men or women.

She is also just the sixth female surfer ever with four world titles.

Carissa Moore: an all-around surfer comfortable in small and big waves | Photo: Red Bull

Moore's Training Routine

Carissa Moore is 5'7'' (170 cm) and weighs around 150 pounds (68 kilograms).

She is not vegan.

The Hawaiian surfer eats a balanced diet with lots of vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates, fruits and, once in a while, chocolate.

Her training routine is very much weather and swell dependent, so she never really has a set schedule.

Carissa says she doesn't know where she'll be this afternoon or tomorrow morning. So she wakes up, checks the conditions, and then figures out where the best place would be to train.

On a good day, Moore will surf from four to six hours at the most.

She usually gets up pretty early - around 5:30-6:00 am - and then she drives to the beach and usually surfs from 7:00 to 9:30 am.

Then, Carissa usually meets her online trainer, and they'll do an hour training session at the park.

After that, she comes home and rests, and then if the waves are good, she'll head back to the beach for an afternoon session from 3:30 to 5:30.

On a not-so-good day, "Riss" will surf for maybe 45 minutes to an hour, do a training session and then go skateboarding with her husband.

As a well-rounded surfer, Moore and her trainer are always mixing it up.

She does a lot of circuit training, agility, endurance cardio, and strength workouts, even though the surfer doesn't use a lot of weight - mostly just bodyweight.

Carissa Moore is also fond of Pilates for injury prevention to improve some of the foundational imbalances that she has.

Carissa Moore: one of the best female tube riders on the planet | Photo: Red Bull

A 360-Degree Persona

If there's one person that truly embodies the spirit of Aloha, it's Carissa Moore.

Her public persona is as bright as her surfing on the surface, and her infectious smile is enough to turn anyone's bad day around.

"The people I look up to and who have inspired me are those who have been able to let their guard down and be vulnerable and have shared what they've been through," Moore once told.

She believes that by sharing your personal stories and experiences, you're opening up your heart and moving forward, stronger, together.

Moore is active in and out of the water and a fierce supporter of the native Hawaiian culture.

Although she has never got into politics, Carissa always holds up the Hawaiian flag after winning an event.

The only exception was the 2020 Olympics, where she had to represent the United States of America and wave the American flag.

In the professional surfing tour, Moore chose to carry the Hawaiian flag.

Carissa Moore is an all-around surfer, comfortable in both small and big waves. Her skills, style, power, and grace were critical to raise the level of women's surfing.

She did commercials for Gillette Venus and Comcast's Xfinity.

Out of the water, the Hawaiian champion is simultaneously joyful and reflective, open and introspective.

Carissa has two dogs, Maya and Tuffy, and lives with her husband in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. She enjoys watching Netflix and taking a sunset walk on the beach.

Moore is also known for napping almost anywhere.

Carissa Moore is on Facebook (@CarissaMooreOfficial), Instagram(@rissmoore10), and Twitter (@rissmoore10).

Carissa Moore: a generous, genuine and selfless woman in and out of the water | Photo: Red Bull

Carissa Moore | Career Highlights and Achievements

2021: WSL Women's Championship Tour Champion
2021: Olympic Gold Medalist at Tokyo 2020
2019: WSL Women's Championship Tour Champion
2015: WSL Women's Championship Tour Champion
2014: Inducted into the Surfers' Hall of Fame
2013: Glamour Magazine's Woman of the Year
2013: ASP Women's World Tour Champion
2013: US Open of Surfing Champion
2012: National Geographic's Adventurer of the Year
2011: ASP Women's World Tour Champion
2010: ASP Women's Rookie of the Year
2010: US Open of Surfing Champion
2008: Reef Hawaiian Pro Champion
2007: NSSA Open Women's Champion
2007: NSSA Explorer Women's Champion
2006: NSSA Open Women's Champion
2006: NSSA Explorer Girls Champion
2006: NSSA Middle School Girls Champion
2005: NSSA Open Women's Champion
2005: NSSA Explorer Girls Champion
2005: NSSA Middle School Girls Champion
2004: NSSA Open Women's Champion
2004: NSSA Explorer Women's Champion
2004: NSSA Middle School Girls Champion

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