Interview: Carissa Moore

On overthinking things, advancing women's surfing and fantasy face-slaps.

Carissa Moore, GinsuPhoto: Ryan Miller

In a sushi restaurant in the Miami airport, returning from a fruitful surf/Waves For Water trip to Haiti last week, I spoke to Carissa Moore about important things like her world title mindset, lessons learned from a third-world country and what celeb she’d like to slap in the face (spoiler: it ain’t Gaga!). —Taylor Paul

Apart from surfing really well, what’s the hardest part about winning a world title?
For me, the mental side of things is the hardest part. Especially bouncing back from a loss, because I’m really hard on myself. So I try my hardest to let it go and get back to a positive mindset instead of overthinking everything.

HonoluaMauiTagetPro_BrentBielmann4531Photo: Brent Bielmann

Do you feel like you overthink things?
Um, yes. [laughs] But it’s a blessing and a curse. Because I definitely feel like my mind frame has gotten me to where I am, but it has also hindered me a lot, especially in 2014, when I took myself out of the title race because I put so much pressure on myself. I overthought everything instead of just being free flowing. I’m always trying to find that balance between thinking about things but not overthinking them, and just surfing from my heart. I surf my best when I’m just having fun.

You mentioned at one point this trip that it’s important to take a break after winning a world title. Why?
Everyone is different. For me, especially after a world title year, I need to relax. I’m exhausted right now and have been sleeping more than I ever have this last month. Because during the year, your endorphins and your adrenaline are going for so long that your body and your mind needs a break. Also, at least for me, you need time to reassess your goals. Because you can’t do the same things that you did the year before; you’re not going to win the same way. Everything and everyone keeps evolving and progressing. To be the best, you have to keep reinventing yourself and to do that you need to take the time to reflect and say, “OK, what can I do better?”

HonoluaMauiTagetPro_BrentBielmann0498Photo: Brent Bielmann

Have you already thought of that for next year?
I’m in the process of it. I was just telling [photographer Ryan] Miller that what’s hard for me is that I’ve never been able to defend a world title. What’s happened is that right after I win, I put too much pressure on myself to match a performance or outdo a performance. It’s not from the outside. It’s all internal. But the other thing is that my mindset changes so much into what my competitors are doing and constantly looking over my shoulder. When I should just be focusing on a goal and saying, “Eff what everyone else is doing, I’m going to do what I’m going to do.”

Seems like in all this, you’re trying to find that balance between trying too hard, overthinking things, and being complacent.
That’s exactly what I go through. My biggest fear is complacency. But I also realize that, if I look at the last two events at Maui and at Pipe, once I wasn’t worried about the title anymore I was finally happy with the way I surfed. It was closer to what I feel is the truest definition on myself on a board. I just need to keep reminding myself to let go a little bit.

HonoluaMauiTagetPro_BrentBielmann0101Photo: Brent Bielmann

Where has there been the most progress in women’s surfing recently?
There have been a lot of positives in the last couple of years. The talent on the tour has gotten so much stronger and I think that all the girls are checking off all the boxes. They’re training outside the water, they’re surfing hard, they’re becoming more strategic in heats. And I think more and more people are getting excited to watch women’s surfing because it’s good surfing, not just good surfing for girls. That’s really cool. And while there is always room for improvement, the WSL has done a great job for us, getting us better venues at Lowers and Fiji and Maui. People have seen that when we get the opportunity to surf those waves, we won’t waste them. We’ll put on a good show. And the prize money has come around, we’re being rewarded for the hard work and effort. I’m also really proud of all the personalities and the characters that are on tour. All girls are good role models, they’re unique, engaging and fun to listen to. They each have something different that they’re bringing to the table.

It’s true. When you watch the post heat interviews, it’s interesting to see how much more you get to know the girls versus the guys.
The guys are amazing, but sometimes they can have one-track minds. Girls, we just have a lot of other stuff in our heads than just surfing [laughs]. I guess that’s just a girl thing.

What are the top five tracks you listen to before a heat?
[Scrolls through phone.]
Scars Till Your Beautiful, by Alessia Cara
Stole The Show, by Kygo featuring Parson James
Shots, by Imagine dragons
Same Old Love, by Selena Gomes
What Do You Mean, by Justin Beiber

Carissa Moore, Waves 4 WaterPhoto: Ryan Miller

Tell me about your experience in Haiti.
I’m so happy I went to Haiti. I really had no expectations coming into the trip. I knew we were coming for Waves For Water and I knew we were going to surf a right. That’s it. But I wanted to go out with an open heart and learn, and embrace the experience. It was gnarly to be in there for 10 days and see kids that didn’t have clothes. When we went to give that lady [we’d give a water filtration to] our leftover snacks on the way to the airport, and her kids were lying naked in the dirt. It was just crazy. I got the best hug of my life today for 30 bars that I could buy any day I wanted back at home. That hug made me want to do more of these projects. It makes me remember how lucky I am. It’s just so unfair that some people, due to the universe or God or whatever, are put into a loving home in a good place and have the opportunity to go to school, while then others have bad luck and are born into a place where they have to fight every single day of their lives. And, I just feel like it’s nice to help a little bit.

Carissa Moore, Waves 4 WaterPhoto: Ryan Miller

Jarring transition — what celebrity would you want to slap in the face?
That’s a hard one. [laughs] I couldn’t really slap anyone unless I really knew them. Because, like, before I met Lady Gaga, I thought she was a kook. But then I met her and I was like, “Oh my god she’s one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met. She’s doing a lot of good for this world.” I met this one football player one year when I went to the ESPYs, I forget his name, but I’d probably slap him. He went on stage and gave this amazing speech and I was super inspired by his story and then when I tried to talk to him afterward and he wouldn’t give me the time of day. And those kinda people…like, what happened between now and 10 minutes ago? [laughs]