Saturday as the sun dipped below the horizon at La Gravière, Carissa Moore was still beaming. She had just won an event for the first time all year -- the Roxy Pro France -- and held her trophy close as reporters milled around her and bulbs flashed in the twilight. While much of the assembled crowd was focused on Gabriel Medina (winner of the Quik Pro), Moore was alone for a moment. Hair still wet, she was clad in her pink contest jersey, catching her breath before TV cameras moved in.
After all, this season has been a long road. Until she arrived on the shores of the old continent, Moore had earned a string of fifth-place finishes, punctuated by a 13th and a 9th. That's hardly a denouement for most surfers -- but most are not like Moore. For the better part of the past decade, she has simply dominated. At just 25, she has already earned three World Titles, oscillating between World No. 1 and No. 3 for seven years running. So this year, as she sunk (relatively speaking) to No. 7, eyebrows from Hawaii to Hossegor were arched.
But then Portugal happened. At the Cascais Women's Pro earlier this month, she surfed her way to the podium for the first time all year, finishing second to Nikki Van Dijk. Just a few days later, she began her steady decimation of the French field, methodically taking down the Title frontrunners until she had the event trophy in hand. In the afterglow of her incredible return to form at the Roxy Pro -- in a brief moment between the award ceremony, replete with thank-yous and trophy-poses, and local news crew interviews -- she reflected on what changed for her here in Europe.
World Surf League: Between your runner-up finish in Cascais and now your win here in France, it seems like you're in a new gear, competitively. What's changed?
Moore: I've started to let go of all the pressure and expectation that I put on myself. I've learned a lot about myself and how I want to compete this year, and so I think it was just starting to click at the end here.
What were some of the things that you learned?
Moore: For me, one of the biggest things is that when you win, it masks a lot of the stuff that you might feel inside about yourself. And I had to deal with a lot of those things, so I think that's where I learned the most: With self-acceptance, and feeling like I was good enough. And when you win, you get that validation and it covers all that up. So, for me, having to work through that was a really big thing.
What was key to that process? Were there any specific tools or approaches that were key?
Moore: Having a really good support crew. People to turn to and to talk through stuff. I've been praying a lot and trying to be grateful for where I'm at. That's been really helpful.