Jen See chats, exclusively, with the current World Number 1!
Whenever I look up Carissa Moore’s career details, I am surprised to discover that her most recent world title came in 2015. It seems like a long time ago. During the years following her last world title, Moore wondered who she wanted to be and how to define her identity when the results didn’t come the way she hoped they would. These days, Moore seems to have left those uncertainties mostly behind her.
Currently, the talented Hawaiian sits at the top of the world rankings. This year was supposed to be a showdown between youth and experience, between Steph Gilmore and Caroline Marks. It hasn’t happened that way. Instead, the women’s title race has proven anything but straightforward. While the favorites have pinballed up and down the rankings, Moore has held steady. A pair of fifths are her throwaways with three events remaining.
Last week in the torrid heat of Lemoore, I sat down for a brief conversation with Moore. She has an incandescent warmth in person and might be the friendliest athlete I’ve ever interviewed. She told me about her year so far, whether she thinks women should compete at Pipe, and about the film project she’s hoping to pursue.
— When we talked last May, you told me you had struggled a lot with questions about what you wanted out of your life and whether you wanted to keep competing. You seem to have traveled a solid distance from where you were then. How do you feel now?
I feel like I’m in a really happy place, a peaceful place. I’ve learned a lot over the past couple of years about what I want personally and professionally — and reassessed my motivation. I’m just feeling a bit more solid about my direction. I’ve always been super goal-oriented, and I feel like more in tune with my goals now. So that’s really nice. For me, it’s tough when I’m not really feeling my purpose. But now I feel like I’m in a good place.
— After equal prize money, what do you think is the next step in the evolution of women’s surfing?
Oh gosh, I haven’t really thought about it that much! I’m just super grateful.
— So if you could wave a magic wand, is there anything you would change or add to women’s pro surfing?
No, I mean, obviously, I would love to see the surf industry just flourish a little bit more. I think right now — from what I hear — they’re not doing as well as I would hope. I love surfing so much and I want it to be the best it can possibly be for the next generation. It’s just a special sport. I hope that all the people who believe in it and love it will see a return, so that it can keep going.
— What do you think about the argument that because women are receiving equal pay, you should be judged on the same standard as the men?
I think it’s getting there. I think that the pay doesn’t necessarily relate to the score standard. We put in just as much work and we’re working just as hard, mentally, and physically in the water. I mean, definitely the level is a little different. It is different. But it’s been male-dominated, you know? I really feel like, we wouldn’t be where we are today without the amazing founders of our sport. It’s progressed so much just in the last ten years that I’ve been on tour.
Like I said, I didn’t even see equal pay coming. I was so stoked because it had gone from $50k to $60k in just a few years. I was like, $100k? I was already so happy.
— I remember I asked you last year about equal prize money, you were like, I don’t know. It just wasn’t something you’d really thought about. It wasn’t high on your list of things.
And some people are super, super passionate. I’m just so grateful to be where we’re at and we’ve come so far and I’m just so appreciative of what we already had. I just think we’re going to keep working at being as good as the guys. I think we’re maybe just appreciated for different things and I think equal pay stands for more than just like, the money. It’s a bigger statement than that. It’s more like, just seeing us, as we are all equal.
— And that you belong in the sport. You belong here.
Just being respected for that, for being an athlete. We’re equal.
— Do you think there should be women’s events at Pipe or Teahupo’o? Should it happen now, in the future? How do you see that fitting into the women’s Tour?
I think there’s a right way to do it. Unfortunately at Pipe, it’s really hard for us as women to practice out there. And if you’re not getting practice, it’s really dangerous to just put us out in a scenario and ask us to perform. And, that’s not going to look good for us. It’s not safe. If we were given times to practice out there and actually look at the wave, and have you know, good opportunities, that would be awesome. I know that there are a lot of girls that are capable of doing it.
Places like Tahiti, it’s just, getting us there and practicing. And putting ourselves in those scenarios. Because I think there’s a good amount of girls that can really show up and do it, you know, it’s just about putting us in those scenarios where we feel safe to push our boundaries and step outside our comfort zones, so we can push the sport.
— So you’d do it, if you have some time to prepare for it. I know, for example, some of the guys have trouble getting waves at Pipe.
Even like last year, we had our Pipe Invitational and it was super cool but it was like, 6-8 feet and it was pretty all over the place. I didn’t feel very comfortable. Then I ended up bouncing off the reef early this season at Backdoor. I’m fighting for position with groms or I’m fighting for position with bigger, older people who have spent so much time out here. Is it really worth the risk? So anyway, that’s how I see it. We definitely have potential out there, and I think we can do it, it’s just finding the right way to do it.
— And there’s potentially other waves that would showcase what you do, without having to deal with the whole situation at Pipe.
I mean, there’s definitely girls who are putting the time in there. There’s a girl named Moana Jones, who’s a Pipeline specialist and it’s awesome. We need those kinds of people. I just haven’t been putting in the time.
— You were in Tahiti to surf Teahupo’o earlier this year. How did that go for you?
It was awesome. I actually loved, I loved doing something that scared me shitless. Like, overcoming the fear and seeing what I can do. It was cool to see myself overcome some of my fears and get outside my comfort zone. To me, that was the most rewarding thing.
— I caught on Chris Bryan’s instagram last spring that you’re potentially working on a film project. What’s the story with that thing?
Hopefully! It’s been a dream of mine to create something really cool. I feel like there isn’t enough content for the young girls to watch. I’m really passionate about it. It’s just been tough finding funding and finding people willing to support it. So I don’t want to say, yes, we’re doing a film project.
We definitely have started, we’re creating content. I’m working with an amazing director, his name is Peter Hamblin [director of Let’s be Frank with Frank Solomon], from London. And he’s one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. So it wouldn’t be your typical surf film!
— I feel like that makes it even better!
I really hope it comes to life.
— How confident do you feel in that world number one right now?
I honestly never feel 100% confident. I know everyone is right there. I don’t even feel like I’m number one. I feel like I’m still like the underdog.
— Did it help you that so much of the focus at the beginning of the year was on Steph versus Caroline?
It still is, to a lot of extent. So I’m stoked. It’s all good! I don’t even get really caught up in it anymore. I used to put a lot of importance — I got a lot of validation from what people used to say. And then, you don’t do so well and no one talks about you. Then you’re like, eh, it’s all good. I mean, I’m good.
— So you’ve managed to separate your sense of self and who you are from your results?
I’m trying to find that happy medium. It’s hard! I’m very passionate about what I do. But being able to look at the personal goals and be like, did I accomplish my personal goals? Well, I may not have done as well as I liked, but hey, I can still smile at the end of the day. Life is amazing.