Earlier this year in Los Angeles, I had the chance to sit down with surfer Carissa Moore, 18, fresh on the heels of her win at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast in Australia. Since going on to also claim her first ASP World Champion title—the youngest to ever do so—at the Roxy Pro Biarritz last month, there’s perhaps no surfer who’s done more to advance the cause of women’s surfing than this Hawaii native.
Her dedication and skills (she’s been at it since age four and started competing professionally at six) have attracted unprecedented attention to the sport, including Nike sponsorship. The brand also backed the film “Leave a Message,” in which Moore totally dominates.
As the rising star gears up to compete this year’s Quicksilver Pro next month, read on to learn more about what it was like to be in the movie, snow surfing and keeping it all balanced.
Cool Hunting: Do you remember the first time you went surfing?
Carissa Moore: I was about four or five when my dad pushed me into my first wave at Hawaii Beach, where I was born and raised and still live.
CH: Does your dad surf?
CM: My dad is actually a competitive swimmer. He won a lot of big open water swims and was an Ironman for a while. So he wasn’t a super serious surfer, but I think what’s awesome is that he applied a lot of the skills he’s learned from swimming to coaching me.
We’re best friends, we’re travel partners, he’s my coach. It’s neat! Sometimes it can get complicated because he’s both my dad and my coach. Coaches are always trying to push you to do better and sometimes I hear my dad and I think he’s not satisfied with me. But he’s always wanted the best for me and I think that’s made our relationship so sweet. It’s cool ’cause at the end when we accomplish something, there’s no person I’d rather share that with than my dad.
CH: What about your mom? Does she come too?
CM: My mom and I have an interesting relationship. I’m really thankful for everything that she’s done for me. I think that I definitely wouldn’t be here or be who I am today without the struggles and the relationship that I have with her. My parents divorced when I was 12 and when I was with her she didn’t really want me to go to the beach. She wanted me to go to school, she wanted me to go shopping, and she wanted me to be a girl. At the time I was always struggling with that because I was like, “I just love this. Why would you want to keep me from something that I love?”
But, it was almost a blessing because she kept me balanced. I graduated from high school last year and it was one of the best accomplishments I’ve had in life because it’s not just surfing. It also got me to appreciate my time in the water too because I didn’t have as much time as everybody else. So I was like, “Ah! I’ve got to be just as good and work even harder with the time that I have.”
CH: What are your long-term goals with surfing?
CM: Ever since I was little, I’ve had a dream of traveling the world and surfing, being on the world tour and hopefully competing to be a world champ. It’s pretty cool ’cause I can say now that I’m living my dream. And I’m really stoked that my results this year have been pretty good.
CH: Do you have insane wetsuits for the really cold water?
CM: This is the coldest place I’ve been ever! But I did recently get my first hooded sweatsuit and it’s super thick. But I don’t know when I’m going to use that. My dream though (secretly) is to surf in the snow. Well, to trudge through the snow and go surfing for at least 10 minutes. People do it in New York and I think it would be a neat experience.
CH: What are your other top spots?
CM: Surf-wise, my favorite place is mainland Mexico, really down south. I love the type of wave there and the food too! The waves are mostly right-point breaks and it’s sand-bottomed so you don’t have to worry about reef. Surfing there is just super playful. Fiji is absolutely breathtaking and beautiful and I want to go back there. And then my dream place to go is Greece.
CH: What was it like being in “Leave a Message?”
CM: This is the first surf movie that I’ve been a part of. There’s actually a lot of surfing porn films that are made. “Porn” meaning that they’re straight surf, straight action and not much lifestyle. There’ve been a few women’s surf films but nothing like this. This film is hardcore innovation stuff, which is closer to what the men are doing. I think that’s why this movie is so monumental in our sport.
I’m so stoked to be a part of it and stoked to be a part of the Nike team. I’m excited to see what the guys have to think about it too! But I think what’s cool about women’s surfing at the moment is that each girl has a lot of personality, which makes it have a different flavor than what the men’s tour has.