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Surfing champ Carissa Moore: how I rediscovered my love of the water after mental health battle

Carissa is a five-time surfing champion

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 13:  Professional surfer Carissa Moore of Hawaii poses during a portrait session at Manly Beach on February 13, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. Moore is currently ranked #3 in the Women's World Surf League and is two times world su

Carrisa Moore is a five-time surfing champion and the first ever Gold Olympian in surfing. In 2019 she announced she would be taking a year off the World Surfing League Championship Tour to recharge and focus on the 2020 Olympics after battling self-doubt — but the global Covid-19 pandemic saw the entire tour canceled and the Olympics pushed back a year.

Here, Carissa tells HELLO! how going back to the drawing board helped her rediscover a love for the water on her own terms...

Five-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore© Getty
Five-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore

In 2019 I knew it was time to go back to the drawing board and reassess how I was doing things, because what I was doing was making me so unhappy. It's unrealistic to say every day is going to be butterflies and unicorns, but I think the overall feeling should be that your life is joyful and positive, and it felt like my mind was spending more time on the darker negative side of the spectrum. 

Surfing was always something that had made me happy, but I was starting to no longer feel stoked and that added a lot of weight to my personal relationships. So I began to ask, How can the biggest goal be living a joyful life? Because I really felt like the rest would fall into place if I could reconnect with love and joy. But it then took time to redefine what success and happiness looks like for me.

It's easy to get wrapped up in the wrong things defining you, but what is core to you can't be taken away, and those are the questions I started asking that led me on this path. 

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Not wanting to get back in the water was something that gradually happened over time and a lot of it had to do with being weighed down with my results. I got really caught up in the results defining me and my happiness and what other people thought of me. I began to struggle with processing the losses in a positive way and a real turning point came when I traveled from Hawaii to South Africa; when you're going that far around the world, you're committing to what you have to do there. And I went halfway around the world to lose. 

I ended up walking down the beach for like an hour; I was freezing cold and so upset, I wanted to paddle out and not come back in. 

At that point, I knew I had to prioritize my happiness and my mental health above all else and realized that if that doesn't change things then maybe surfing really isn't my path — but I'm going to give it a valiant effort first! 

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Carissa Moore of Team USA on day one of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021© Getty
Carissa Moore of Team USA on day one of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021

I called my sports psychologist, and my dad (Chris Moore) —who is my coach — and I stripped everything away and returned to what works. Sometimes, our egos get really big and it's hard to hear what other people are saying in a constructive way, but I opened up to learning and taking whatever helpful advice I was offered. 

I also leaned on my husband Luke Untermann, who is my greatest support. More than anyone in my life, he's really come to understand what I need in certain moments and that unconditional selfless love for me —no matter the result — was really something beautiful. 

Looking back at taking a year off, I don't know I would have been as relaxed as I was if everyone else didn't take the year off, and in a weird way I felt like the universe knew that everyone needed to slow down and reconnect with themselves. During the pandemic I stayed home in Hawaii and it was fun to surf for myself; I found a lot of joy in being able to work on parts of my surfing that I've always wanted to but had never had the time for because we were always preparing for the next event. 

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I've designed three collections with Hurley now and I always ask myself, How can I share a little bit of myself and a little bit more aloha? I want to empower other girls and women to feel comfortable and confident in their own skin, to chase their dreams and step outside their comfort zones being fearless.

I have a very feminine side —I want anyone who wears it to feel cute and beautiful — and I am so inspired by my Hawaiian culture. But I also want stuff that performs when I am in the water; I want to be able to do my craft without worrying that something's gonna fall out here and there! 

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The tour is changing every year and it's really exciting to see every generation bringing their own flair to the waves. There's endless possibilities, and it's going to be radical to see where this next generation is going to take the sport. 

Olympic qualifications for 2024 are also this year, and so my biggest goal is to enjoy every moment. 

No one knows how long they have; I've had friends pass away recently and it really makes you appreciate every moment, to surf hard and enjoy the community and family. Now, I make good memories; my husband and I are finishing building our dream home this year and we're expanding our events and programs and we are hopefully going to do our first fundraiser for my charity Moore Aloha at the end of the year.

Shop the Hurley x Moore Aloha collection now

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