An Olympic Champion Goes in Search of a New Id

There’s a shelf at Carissa Moore’s house in Honolulu the place she retains her journals. She has carried clean pages across the globe since she was a bit of woman, scribbling her ideas and worries and targets as she grew to become the most effective surfers on this planet.

She nonetheless does it.

This yr, understanding that she was going to retire from competitors, she wrote a brand new objective: Face your fears.

Moore is 31. She is a five-time world champion and present defender of an Olympic gold medal. Now she desires to begin a household along with her husband, Luke Untermann. She desires to extract herself from the free construction and heat cocoon of her sport’s world tour, to redefine success on her personal phrases and in her personal thoughts.

She desires to be challenged otherwise, regardless that the best factor is likely to be to stay round.

“All those wins, the competitive part that’s so much of my identity, I’m taking that away, and I’m facing myself this year,” she mentioned. “And that’s scary. Like, who am I? Am I going to be OK? Will I be able to love myself and think that I’m worthy without this?”

Moore displays a more recent technology of athlete that overtly discusses mental health and self-care. The superhero mystique positioned upon the perfect athletes is a veneer, everyone knows.

She sees vulnerability and relatability as extra trustworthy traits to mannequin. Perhaps these are her superpowers.

There isn’t any single path for many who have been outlined so singularly, who develop into the perfect at one thing, famously, after which stroll away from it of their prime. When most high athletes retire, the dialogue is up to now tense, an evaluation of accomplishments and legacies.

For Moore, that is about what she desires, not what she did. It’s in regards to the everlasting, common seek for one thing extra — extra challenges, extra unknowns, extra that means.

“I’m excited to see what else there is, outside the jersey,” Moore mentioned.

Few have defined it so thoughtfully, so rawly, on their means out. Browsing as a metaphor for all times is clear and apt. Nothing is static. Place your self for the perfect wave, however know that there’ll all the time be one other. Be affected person. Be decisive. Be daring.

“My favorite rides, the greatest thrills have come when I’ve paddled over the ledge even though my heart or my head is telling me not to, you know?” she mentioned. “The anxiety comes from ‘am I going to show up?’ I just want to be proud of myself. I want, at the end of the day, to be like, ‘OK, I did my best. And I rose to the occasion.’ You know?”

Has that been a difficulty?

“My whole life — my whole life,” she mentioned. “It’s something I have to work at every day, looking in the mirror and being, like, ‘You’re good enough, Riss. I’m so proud of you. And you can do this. You can do the things that you dream of.’ I think it’s the beauty and the beast of me, because it guides me to keep pushing and going for more, but at the same point, I struggle with just internal peace sometimes.”

She caught herself. “Not sometimes. All the time.”

She plans to compete in two main occasions this yr on two of the world’s fiercest waves. The primary is the World Surf League’s season-opening occasion at Banzai Pipeline, on Oahu’s North Shore, beginning Jan. 29. Moore is the reigning champion, and she’s going to surf in entrance of shut family and friends.

The opposite is the Paris Olympics, the place browsing shall be held in Tahiti, at Teahupo’o, in July.

In each locations, women have competed only sparingly, largely as a result of the waves have been thought-about too difficult. The 2 waves scare Moore. That’s the level.

“When I’m in these positions, at these waves, am I going to go?” she mentioned. “When I’m at the peak, and it’s my turn, and I have to face that fear, am I going to run away from it or am I going to embrace it? Am I going to trust myself? Am I going to trust my ability? Am I going to lean into it? Am I going to go?”

Typically it may be arduous to know if she is speaking about waves or life. Or each.

Moore was in a automobile, driving towards the large waves on Oahu’s North Shore, as she defined her resolution. She has recognized it for a yr, however has stored it from all however her closest confidantes till now.

“I don’t like the word retirement,” she mentioned. “I like to say a departure from the tour, or just stepping back, or switching gears, or, like, evolving.”

She stopped there. “Evolving.” That feels proper. “Retirement” evokes leaving one thing; “evolving” means rising.

She was a toddler star in browsing, well-known in Hawaii since she was little. Her mother and father, Chris and Carol, divorced when Carissa was in grade college. Her father guided her browsing profession. She dominated youth competitions. At 16, she was on the cover of Surfer magazine. At 18, she was a world champion.

She was additionally combating body-image points and an consuming dysfunction — and talking about them, with a nudge from her father.

“He encouraged me to own my story,” she mentioned. “He encouraged me to say, ‘Hey, I’m struggling. You see this but there’s so much else going on.’ And I’m a work in progress. We’re all a work in progress.”

Since becoming a member of the championship tour in 2010, Moore has completed the season exterior the highest three solely as soon as. She has received 5 world titles, the final in 2021, when she additionally won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I felt really, really content, really satisfied with everything I achieved, and I was starting to ask the questions: What more do I want? What more do I need here?” she mentioned. “I’ve kind of exceeded my expectations. When I was a little girl, I really only dreamed of that first world title. I didn’t dream about five or being in the Olympics, you know? So it’s actually been a bit harder for me to find the motivation to keep going the last couple of years.”

Nonetheless, she led the tour championship standings in each 2022 and 2023 till the final day, dropping head-to-head championship matches. It was a brand new format that the league launched to construct pleasure. It probably stored Moore from being a seven-time champion and successful 4 in a row on her means out.

“I would have loved to have won a world title and then dropped the mic and walked away,” she mentioned. “I would have loved the fairy tale ending.”

Moore arrived at Pipeline. The waves have been pumping, and he or she excused herself.

“I’m human — I don’t have everything figured out,” she mentioned. “I’m flowing and feeling and learning as I go. I’m following my heart. And the unknown is freaking scary. But I’m also excited. There is no such thing as the end until you’re in the ground.”

After which she was gone, into the ocean.

It may be a cliché, a public-relations volley, an completed athlete beginning a basis. However it might probably additionally sign an inside reversal, a non-public acknowledgment that championship success can include diminishing returns. Most well-known athletes don’t prefer to admit it.

Moore began Moore Aloha in 2018 when she was within the psychological and motivational doldrums, coming off her worst season and trying to find that means. Six years later, Moore Aloha could also be a post-career touchdown pad.

The charity is geared towards women and girls, constructing self-awareness and neighborhood. The targets are free. The mission is to not save whales or remedy most cancers. It’s about “wellness, mindfulness and friendship” by occasions and workshops.

Every month, Moore Aloha solicits essays by a immediate. The current one: “Think about the most prominent challenge ahead of you in 2024 and how you plan to embrace it.” The perfect essay shall be rewarded with $200.

The prompts generally function two-way remedy.

“One of the essays was for them to write a letter of love to themselves,” Moore mentioned. “And I was really struggling. I was in Australia. I was looking at myself in the mirror every day, just picking myself apart and just — just sad at myself.”

She wrote an essay. She put herself within the place of the women she was making an attempt to encourage.

“It was really, really difficult,” Moore mentioned. “It was really difficult to be, like, hey, you have great arms — they’re great for hugging people. And you have a smile that brightens your room. It was hard. It was hard to give myself that praise. I don’t know why I struggle with it. But I think I’m trying to find those things that are just real and truthful, the things that people can’t take away.”

Stepping away from the construction of a world browsing tour most likely means receiving much less direct adoration or affirmation. The sports activities world is crammed with well-known champions who struggled to seek out goal or seize what they left behind of their youth.

Moore and Untermann have been strolling their two canine not too long ago in Honolulu, when Untermann questioned aloud about Moore returning to competitors after having youngsters. Moore is open to the concept, not understanding how she’s going to really feel within the years forward.

She named Serena Williams, Ashleigh Barty and Allyson Felix, who all stepped away on the high of their sports activities to begin households, as inspirations. A more in-depth connection is likely to be to Kimi Werner, a free diver who grew up on Maui. She can also be a champion spearfisher, a chef, an environmentalist and public speaker.

“One of her overarching themes is being authentic, and following your authentic journey,” Moore mentioned. “It often turns out better than you could have ever imagined and brings you more opportunities and success than you would have had if you kept staying in one space.”

In October, after her disappointing second-place end and the missed alternative to “drop the mic,” Moore stored her plans secret from all however these closest to her. She held an occasion for Moore Aloha in Hawaii, speaking to women about targets and fears and being susceptible. Moore desires to provide permission for all of that, in a world the place it’s not all the time inspired.

“I had three or four girls come up and cry to me, in tears, saying ‘I really needed this day. I had no idea you were going through the same things that I’m going through,’” Moore mentioned.

She added: “If that’s what comes of this, to help someone else know that they’re not alone — oh my, gosh, that’s the biggest success. That helps them know that they can keep going, that they can face their fears or they can overcome and create a life that they envision for themselves. That’s the dream, really.”

Quickly, Moore was again on her surfboard, at Pipeline, questioning what the following wave would convey and whether or not she had the braveness to catch it.