Hawaiian Carissa Moore heads into the Target Maui Pro this Saturday as No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard and the defending event champion. At the Maui contest last year, Moore arrived in Honolua Bay after a tough season which left her out of World Title reach. Instead, her win over Tyler Wright (AUS) in the 2014 Final secured a sixth World Title for Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) (If Wright had won, a surf-off would have had to determine the 2014 Champ).
This time around, the final event of the season comes with a different set of challenges for Moore: Her lead is narrow, her competition (Courtney Conlogue) is fierce and Moore is overcoming self-doubt. But with the challenges comes the excitement to be in the conversation, battling for what could be her first World Title earned close to home. Before she paddles out, Moore let her guard down and shared a look at the peaks and valleys of being World No. 1.
Daniel Jenks: What's different this year from other years that you have won the World Title, or been in the Title race?
Carissa Moore: I guess the biggest thing that's different for me this year would be my mental approach. For me there's no winning formula, that's what I've learned. Every year that I've competed for a World Title it wasn't the same formula that I used the year before. I learned a lot from last year.
After looking at my whole year and reflecting on it I definitely thought that I mentally took myself out of the competition in certain events. That was my big goal this year, to find ways to let go of the pressure that I put on myself, have fun and enjoy where I'm at. Really just to work through the thoughts that go through my head. I think a lot of things and sometimes they're negative and self doubting. So it was trying to learn how to process them.
I'm learning how to be happy with my performances for myself.
I think I've come a long way this year with that and I'm really proud of that. [Personally] it's just learning how to compete and be happy with my performances for myself. Every year I work really hard and I put everything I have into my season and I think for me it's trying not to look so much outside for validation, but be happy with myself and find happiness with my performances. At the end of the year if you win that's great and it's remembered forever. But the loser goes home and a lot of the hard work is forgotten [by others]. You have to find a way to be happy yourself.
Jenks: Is self-doubt something that's always challenged you, or is it something you've learned recently about yourself?
Moore: It's been something I've struggled with and been challenged with my whole career. This year I focused on it a little bit more and went a little more in-depth. I've gotten into meditation and taking a second to process my thoughts instead of acting upon them right away.
I still see it as that I'm an underdog.
Jenks: You and Courtney have traded the yellow jersey every event since the Vans US Open in Huntington Beach. How does that weigh on you, that both of you seem to be super inspired when you're in the No. 2 position?
Moore: You know I still see it as that I'm an underdog. This [race] is so close that both of us have heats to make and work to do. Even though I have the yellow jersey, I'm not even really thinking about it. I like that coming-from-behind feeling, and I'm not letting my guard down or getting complacent. I have a lot of work to do.
Jenks: In the Maui event last year you were battling for Steph's sixth World Title, but this year you're battling for your own. Does that change how you prepare for an event?
Moore: I'm trying to prepare the same way that I've always prepared, but maybe do a few things a little differently. I normally wouldn't go up and surf the venue weeks beforehand. Usually I'll just go three or four days before, but there was a swell a couple weeks ago and I went over and surfed [Maui's Honolua Bay]. Tried out some of my equipment and whatnot, but for the most part my preparation has been the same. I'm trying to treat it like any other contest so I don't get too freaked out. The goal is the same -- to make heats.
Jenks: You were originally supposed to face Steph in Round 1 this week in Maui. But now you'll be facing Silvana Lima (BRA) and a to-be-determined wildcard. How does that affect your approach? Does it make you nervous?
Moore: I'm actually really excited because my sister is one of the trialists competing for that wildcard spot. I'm not freaking out too much about that first heat. There's four younger girls from Hawaii all trying out for the wildcard spot that I'm really excited to watch and they all rip! I'm crossing my fingers it works out for my sister because it would be a dream come true to have a heat with her.
Being accepted by Steph, who I respect so much, was really special.
Jenks: It's been a wild year on the Tour, can you tell me about three moments that really stand out from your season?
Moore: One of my favorite moments this year was after I won Snapper. It was really cool, Steph invited me up to the [local] surf club and she was like, "Hey you can't go back in and change, you have to go up in your jersey. It's a tradition."
Being accepted by Steph, who I respect so much, and being invited up there was really special. Sometimes I don't get to hang out with the girls that much and to have her open up and invite me up to the surf club was really cool. And when I was up there Mick [Fanning] got the whole surf club chanting and I actually had a drink. It was such a cool experience, being embraced by two of Snapper's best and to be accepted by my peers was really neat.
Second: Watching a sunset with my boyfriend at Margaret River. He's someone that makes me really happy and has been a rock, a punching bag, and then a great support team. He listens to the highs and the lows and everything. That goes to my whole family, support team and my dad. Those are the people that have really kept me going this year.
Lowers last year was a turning point when I took myself out of the Title race. I fell apart mentally.
Another really memorable moment was that heat with Tyler at Trestles, I think it was a Quarterfinal. It was such a crazy moment, a buildup of pressure and emotions. Lowers last year was a turning point for me when I really took myself out of the Title race. I fell apart mentally, I was really freaked out, I had put all this pressure on myself and so that heat for me, I could have folded mentally.
I was really proud that I was able to keep my head, it was just a really cool moment. That heat gave me a little bit of confidence. Anything can happen in this last event. This year, like any year, there's been some great days of surf, but then there's also been those curveballs where we've had weird conditions and the results have been different. I can't say anything is for certain, but I'm really excited for the last event.
Jenks: What would a third World Title mean to Carissa Moore?
Moore: A third would mean so much! I love the sport, I'm so passionate about competing and the journey and I'm so blessed with everything that has happened in my life so far. Surfing has given me so much. To have all that hard work pay off would be amazing and to share it with my family and have it happen at home would be something special. We'll see what happens.