If my wings should fail me, Lord, please meet me with another pair. — Led Zeppelin “In My Time Of Dying”
Carissa Moore is a Hawaii pearl in many ways.
Surfing champion is the first thing that comes to mind, but she’s oh-so much Moore.
“Riss,” a video documentary about the four-time and reigning World Surf League champion, is out on redbull.tv and it is just as much about her surfing exploits as it is about her pursuit of happiness and just being herself.
A sharp cutback, classic form and a load of spray — just another Carissa Moore wave. (Photo from RedBull.com).
That last part — being who she is, a real, down-to-earth soul and not some made-up persona — comes across refreshingly clear. The video itself tries to steer the viewer clear of seeing Moore as just a package-able, off-the-shelf, pop-culture commodity.
“The basic information about the documentary is that it was made to allow a more in-depth look at Carissa and how a focus on personal happiness and positivity allowed her to rediscover her competitive prowess,” Robert Pursell, a senior communications manager with Red Bull Media House wrote in an email to nickabramo.com. “It was meant to help allow a more intimate look into her life prior to the 2020 Olympics, but obviously the Olympics were postponed.”
Moore has taken a break from media interviews during the COVID-19 health crisis, and so the video is good timing in a way, giving her a presence in the surf world while she is temporarily off the grid.
The 40-minute video includes an “in-your-face” style narrator who gives some street cred to the production and creates a tug-of-war for your attention against Moore’s built-in sweetness.
Moore describes herself as a goofball and acts like one, too. She admits to taking a ton of naps. Any other athletic stars admit that? She is instructed early on to take a “mild, happy tone,” which all fans know shouldn’t have been difficult in the first place.
The video also succeeds at juxtaposing Moore’s “authenticity,” “happiness” and her call for “Moore Aloha” in the world with the tiger of a competitor she has been through the last decade. You don’t become WSL champion in 2011, ’13, ’15 and ’19 without great devotion to the craft ,and, when needed, have that killer instinct in the water that allows you to pull through at No. 1 in your profession when push comes to shove.
The clips of Moore bashing off the top of a wave or settling in for a calm train ride through a churning yet hollow cylinder of a wave are offset by Moore’s insistence that her surfing glory is fleeting.
“I feel like the trophies, the accolades, all those things are awesome, but they’re really short-lived,” Moore says in the video. “They’re only temporary, and what really matters is how you make people feel and the love that you share.”
To hammer the “love” point home, 11-time world men’s champion Kelly Slater is enlisted to talk about love and aloha. Slater is not referred to by name, but only as a “somewhat analytical surfer” (a nice touch, by the way), saying: “It’s a common misconception that the word aloha is simply a greeting, a way to say hello or goodbye. In Hawaiian culture, it is more than this. It is a way of living and treating each other with love and respect. It’s deep meaning starts by teaching us to love ourselves first and then to spread that love to others so I guess Moore aloha means more love.”
The world can never get enough of it, actually.
A high point in the production is when Carissa (or Riss as she is known to friends), in a clip from when she was a young girl, talks about her dream of becoming a pro surfer. She also is shown on a home movie in her living room as a 6-year-old teaching people (the cameraman) how to catch a wave.
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Due to the health crisis, Moore will not get the chance to surf in the 2020 Olympics at the world-renowned break called Teahupoo (in Tahiti, a part of French Polynesia, which passed with flying colors in a vote as the spot to be part of the Paris-hosted Games). But she did qualify for those Games — where surfing was supposed to get its Olympic debut — and may still get the chance to represent the U.S. in 2024.
The narrator hinted at struggles in Moore’s life and competitive fire between championships No. 3 in 2015 and No. 4 (not long before COVID-19 became a thing), an acknowledgement that Moore knows that rosiness is not guaranteed no matter how much you strive to give as much love to the world as possible.
Perhaps that is why she saved a clip of a massive wipeout for the final minute. It’s the last wave we see her on in the video. We are left watching her disappear fully behind an overhanging barrel of white water. It’s possible she’ll make it out, but instead of that feel-good triumphant exit, we see that the board has been caught in the whirl. Aloha, as in goodbye this time.
The 27-year-old is in the prime of her career, with plenty of Aloha — the hellos, the greetings, the love, the wins, even the struggles and the wipeouts — left before her story is fully written.