Eleven-year-old rides wave of success
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
|Carissa Moore, 11, recently became the youngest surfer to advance to the finals of an Association of Surfing Professionals contest.
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Carissa was 2 years old at the time.
"She had this sense of movement and balance that just came naturally," Chris said.
Carissa is now 11 and she has taken that sense of movement and balance to the waves. She is one of the nation's top female amateur surfers, and will be one of around 100 competitors from Hawai'i in this week's National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) National Championships at San Clemente, Calif.
The NSSA Nationals is considered the most prestigious event in the country for student surfers.
"I'm kind of nervous because everybody over there is so good," said Carissa, who just completed the sixth grade at Punahou School and lives in the Wai'alae area.
Carissa will compete in the open women's and explorer women's divisions. Both divisions are for females of all ages, meaning she will be up against older and stronger girls.
"It's hard going against the bigger girls, but it's still fun," Carissa said. "I like surfing with all the other girls."
Regardless of how she does this week, Carissa is expected to stay on a fast wave toward a professional surfing career. She has already entered several women's pro contests.
Most recently, she made history by placing second in the SG Lowers Pro two months ago at San Clemente, Calif. She became the youngest surfer to advance to the finals of an Association of Surfing Professionals contest.
"We weren't out to set a record or anything like that," Chris said. "The reason why we entered that one was because it was at the same break as the nationals, so we wanted to get in some practice."
Carissa's success has not gone unnoticed.
She has been sponsored by Roxy one of the world's largest manufacturers of female surfing apparel since she was 7. She has her own Web site (carissamoore.com) and has her own page on roxy.com, alongside professional surfers Megan Abubo and Lisa Andersen.
"It's very rare for any company to feature somebody that young," said Glen Moncata, a Hawai'i representative for Roxy and Quiksilver. "But we think she's one in a million. I don't think I've ever seen a girl her age turn with that kind of power. We recognized that talent the first time we saw her."
Moncata has even started taking Carissa to autograph sessions promoting Roxy and Quiksilver, and she is doing the signing, not the seeking.
"It's kind of amazing how all these little girls look up to her," Moncata said. "She really is the wave of the future, but at the same time, she's been able to remain level-headed and focused."
Her parents make sure of that.
Carol Moore, Carissa's mother, said "education is a priority." She said they are not thinking about putting Carissa in a home-school program to help her surfing career.
"She's in a very good school now, and she keeps up with the academic work," Carol said. "We don't want to give that up. We'd like for her to graduate from Punahou before she does any (professional) surfing."
Carol has even become wary of the attention Carissa has started receiving at professional contests.
"I am concerned that she's too young," Carol said. "I wasn't too comfortable with all the photographers surrounding her and following her up and down the beach. That's why we're trying to take it slow. But so far, Carissa has been handling it all really well."
Chris Moore is selective about entering Carissa in contests throughout the year so that she can maintain her school work.
During week days when school is in session, Carissa does her homework first before going surfing with her father in the late afternoon.
"We realize she's still very young, but we also realize that she has a gift," Chris said. "The main thing is to keep it fun for her."
So far, so good.
"I wish I could surf every day," Carissa said. "And maybe that will help me be a professional surfer when I get older."
The NSSA Nationals is scheduled to begin today and run every day through Sunday.
Shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton of Kaua'i is expected to compete.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com or 535-8101.