Carissa Moore has established herself as a powerhouse in women’s surfing, a top competitor and world champ who’s not afraid to compete against the guys and pull moves no other women are doing in the water. And she does it all with a sense of humbleness and simplicity, born from her Hawaiian roots.
When she was five years old, Moore started surfing off the beaches of Waikiki in her native Honolulu, Hawaii, with her dad. Within a few years, she discovered her passion for the ocean and her true calling on a surfboard.
“At first, it was just a fun thing my dad and I did at the beach,” she says. “But by the time I was 12, my dad and I had a more serious conversation, saying, ‘Is this something I really want to do?’ I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work, but I also knew it would be really fun.”
She started collecting wins at NSSA junior surf competitions and top spots at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships, where she helped Hawaii win a team victory in 2005. Starting at age 12, she won four consecutive NSSA open division women’s titles. Everyone who saw her surf knew she was destined for greatness. In 2008, at age 16, she became the youngest champion at a Triple Crown of Surfing event when she won the Reef Hawaiian Pro.
Carissa, known for her humble ways, gives much of the credit for her early success to her father. “Growing up, most of the influence came from my dad,” Carissa says. “He loved the ocean and he wanted to share that passion with me.”
In 2010, Carissa qualified for her first season on the ASP World Tour, now called the World Surf League. In her debut season on the tour, she won two major contests, including the Rip Curl Pro Portugal, finished third overall, and was named Rookie of the Year. Not bad for a 17-year-old newbie.
“That first year was a bit of a shock,” Carissa says. “You’re travelling to all these different places and I didn’t expect all the challenges I had to face. It was hard to adapt to new waves and I missed home. It was a learning curve that first year, but by the end, I started to find a place for myself.”
The following year, Carissa was a youngster to watch on the World Tour and she lived up to her reputation, winning three events and claiming her first world title, unseating four-time defending champ Stephanie Gilmore in the process. At 18, she became the youngest person – male or female – to win a surfing world title.
“I’m very proud of that and of course, it was an honor to surf against many of surfing’s greats,” she says.
Never one to turn down a challenge, that year Carissa also became the first woman to compete in Oahu’s Triple Crown of Surfing, typically an all-male event featuring the world’s top surfers.
She hit some roadblocks in 2012, coming in third overall on the tour with no contest wins, but she came back in 2013 to win four out of eight stops and claim another world title. “I had to find my passion and enthusiasm again and re-light that,” Carissa says. “I went into the 2013 season really excited and it felt really good to find that drive again.” Carissa was inducted into the Surfer’s Hall of Fame in 2014.
In 2015, she won three tour events outright on her way to sealing a hat-trick of world titles. "Every year is different and special in its own way. "This one is definitely going to be hard to top," she said after securing the vital points in Maui." "Having the title decided so early in the morning took a lot of pressure off, and just allowed me to have fun and surf from my heart."
Along the way, Carissa has also managed to put out impressive video parts and media appearances, including countless web edits and segments in films like 2006’s Shimmer and 2011’s Leave a Message. She starred in a 2015 documentary on ESPNW called Riss, which focused on body image issues.
“I want to leave a message that I love surfing and I get to do what I love, but I’ve also gone through a lot of challenges, too,” Carissa says. “I want other girls to know I understand what they’re going through. I want to empower women to believe in themselves and do what they love.”