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She has scores of trophies, an Olympic gold medal, and most recently, the key to the city of Honolulu. What will the champion surfer do next?

text YU SHING TING //photographer MARK ARBEIT
photographer’s assistant IVAN WENTLAND
wardrobe stylist KYLE KAGAMIDA
hair + makeup RISA HOSHINO

It’s been a swell of a year for surfer Carissa Moore, who closes out 2021 with a fifth world championship title and an Olympic gold medal. She also was inducted into the Surfing Walk of Fame as Woman of the Year, and honored with the key to the city of Honolulu by Mayor Rick Blangiardi, who proclaimed Oct. 6 as Carissa Moore Day.

Catching waves since she was just 5 years old, the surf phenom is living her dream, rolling in trophies and accolades along the way, while also spreading “Moore Aloha” in and out of the water.

“We just loved surfing together and we loved going tandem, which is when we surf on the same board,” she recalls of her early years learning to surf from her dad, Chris, in Waikiki. “It was our way to spend time together, and it wasn’t until I was around 10 years old that things kind of got more serious. I started entering some amateur contests, and I remember having verbal conversations with my dad about the commitment to seeing how far we can go with this journey.”

That journey would go on to include 11 NSSA amateur titles and a win at the 2008 Reef Hawaiian Pro when she was just 16 (the youngest surfer to win a Vans Triple Crown of Surfing event) before turning pro in 2010.
She continued chasing waves, traveling the world with her board (she prefers the aisle seat), signing sponsorship deals, dominating the women’s surf scene and becoming one of the greatest surfers of all time.

“There’s a lot of very great, awesome things about what I do,” says Moore. “I love going to the beach everyday. That’s why I do it, right? When it comes down to it, there’s just something about being in the water and riding waves that makes me feel more connected to my sense of self and being and the environment. I also love that surfing has given me some incredible relationships in my life, the opportunity to meet new people and a platform to hopefully make a positive impact on the next generation.”

In 2018, Moore launched her nonprofit organization Moore Aloha with a simple goal: Moore Love.

“It came about after one of my sponsors, Hurley, had this program called Hurley Surf Club,” she explains. “They would set up one of their big vans that had a video TV review so we would invite all the kids to come down … surf with the pros and coach, and then we would do video review and give feedback.

“We held one of these events at Kewalos and there were like 30 girls that came. They were so excited about the opportunity to get advice and be in the ocean, and that brought back so many memories of when I was younger, and I got to spend some time with the people that I looked up to. It was such an invaluable experience I have cherished my whole life, and it made such an impact on me.”

That experience, she remembers, made her “glow from the inside out” and inspired her to do more. She decided to create events and programs that connect her Hawaiian roots with the lessons she’s learned, and a mission to encourage girls through the sport of surfing to be strong, confident and compassionate individuals.

“Selfishly, I’ve had the best time starting Moore Aloha, hanging out with the younger girls and getting to experience their fresh perspective and excitement,” says Moore, who runs the organization herself with the help of family and friends. “That’s invigorating for me.”

Each year, they try to hold a few events benefiting 60-80 females, and partner with another local nonprofit to give back. A Moore Aloha Beach Day was scheduled for Nov. 12 in Jacksonville, Florida, and at press time, an event was in the works for Hawai‘i in December or January. For details, visit

At the end of 2019, Moore announced that she would take 2020 off from competing full time on the championship tour; not knowing the entire world would be going on pause, too.

“I think for me that was a decision that I had made actually a year prior before I even started competing in 2019,” she says. “I just felt I was at this place where I was like, hey, I’ve been doing this for so long, I’ve been competing at this intense level, and I’m such an all-in person that if I’m not able to give 110 percent of myself then I need some time to rest, reset and recharge so that I can continue to do that and prolong my career.

“I love surfing. I love competing. I love that I’m able to do something that I’m passionate about every day. So, how can I keep that love and joy alive? And I just felt like, at that time, that was what I needed and what felt right to me, and it was.”

Moore admits it was a “scary” decision, but was reassured by the support and encouragement she received. She describes that much-needed break as a shift in focus on things that she hadn’t had a chance to really do.

“I wanted to travel to some different spots and really look at my surfing and have time to improve on my surfing,” she shares. “Most of the time we’re just preparing for the next event, so we’re not allowed to actually make mistakes, a lot of mistakes, and in order to get better you need to make mistakes.

I wanted to reinvent myself, do a little searching and have some fun, spend time with my husband, stay home and fall into a routine, but then also at the same time it would’ve given me more time to prepare properly for the Olympics. … With the pandemic, it ended up being not what I
expected my time off to look like, but it was probably exactly what I needed be- cause I feel like I’m always going, going, going, and the pandemic really forced me to just stop … stay home and fill up on the simple stuff which I think is the most important.”

Throughout her career, Moore has pushed the sport of surfing, maneuvering waves big and small with power and style. With greatness come great expectations, and for Moore, prioritizing her mental health has been part of her growth as an athlete. It’s a topic that fellow Olympians Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka have also shined the spotlight on this year, bringing attention to an issue that Moore believes touches people from all walks of life.

“Everyone goes through very similar experiences in life, but I feel like it’s just a little bit on the fast track as an athlete because there is that pressure,” she says. “You have to deal with these things under a microscope or under a set amount of time, but there are all these feelings that I think everybody goes through whether they’re working in an office or they’re an artist or they’re a student in school. We all have this same sort of pressures and ideals to have to perform and succeed and impress.

“It’s normal and it’s also important to reach out when you need help — to have someone to lean on, an avenue where you can unload. For me, I’m not afraid to say I do talk to a therapist. I have a sports psychologist who is also my life coach. It’s just nice to have a neutral sounding board that helps me work through stuff so that I can be the best version of myself, and that goes along with the people I surround myself with, too.”

Now 29, Moore looks forward to continuing the ride but doesn’t necessarily have any specific goals in mind, except to start a family with husband Luke Untermann, hopefully in these next few years. The couple met through mutual friends during their senior year at Punahou School.

“I’m in this transition period where I’m figuring out and reassessing,” she says. “What’s the next peak I want to climb or where do I want to go now? I will never stop surfing and I want to continue surfing forever. I think I’ll keep competing for as long as I enjoy it. I don’t think there’s ever been a number on world titles I want to win. I never put pressure on results that I want to get. I think that will come from the performance goals or personal goals that I set for myself.”

When she’s home and not living out of a suitcase half the year, you might find her surfing at Kewalos (her homebreak), spending time with family or staying active on land — hiking and taking her dogs skateboarding. She also enjoys scrap- booking, and, of course, napping. She lists her latest obsession as her sweats, favorite possession is her wedding ring and favorite author is Kristin Hannah (having read Magic Hour, The Nightingale and The Great Alone).

You might also find her at some of her favorite neighborhood spots (she lives in Palolo) like Toni’s Lamps & Shades in Kaimuki, grabbing an iced matcha latte at Coffee Talk (her guilty pleasure is green tea ice cream), or eating pho at Hale Vietnam.

As for her biggest motivator in life, it’s simply love. “Love for my family and friends, love and my passion for surfing, my love for my husband, my love for my community and I think the love that I receive in return is what gives me the strength to keep moving forward,” she says. “If you can find your passion, follow your passion and share that passion with others, and if you define passion that’s love. That’s what I really feel is the purpose of life: the idea of love.”

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