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Native Hawaiian Carissa Moore wins first-ever Olympic gold medal for surfing

The athlete, who began surfing at the age of five, started off choppy but went on to clinch first place. She will soon head to the World Surf League tour next month.

Native Hawaiian Carissa Moore wins first-ever Olympic gold medal for surfing
Image Source: Surfing - Olympics: Day 4. ICHINOMIYA, JAPAN - JULY 27. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Surfer Carissa Moore was one of two athletes to win gold medals for the sport at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As a native Hawaiian, this is a huge accomplishment. This is the first time surfing has been included in the Olympics, after a century of campaigning for the sport to get on the program. The 28-year-old struggled during the early heats of the competition but quickly gained her rhythm with the ocean just in time to deliver an exceptional, career-defining performance. The child prodigy will now head back on the World Surf League tour next month, with stops in Oaxaca, Mexico, and Teahupo’o, Tahiti, The Huffington Post reports.


During the final leg of the competition, Moore competed against South African rival Bianca Buitendag. As she established her win, a rainbow popped into the sky, completing the picture-perfect ending to a rollercoaster of a tournament. The Hawaiian surfer, accustomed to the region's world-class waves, had to first find her footing in Japan's relatively modest beach break conditions over the three-day competition. "It’s been a crazy couple of days," the athlete stated. "A little bit of a rollercoaster of emotions just trying to figure out the break, find my rhythm, learning how to trust myself without my family here."


Moore is joined in her win by her male counterpart Italo Ferreira of Brazil, who won gold in the men's segment. He won the final against Kanoa Igarashi of Japan. His performance was also challenged, as he crashed through the air to land on a broken board. Following a quick board switch onshore near the beginning of the heat, he was back at it. The surfer, aged 27, shared, "I broke my good board on my first wave. That board gives me good speed, the other one is [slower]. It’s super hard out there, but I knew that there [were] a lot of opportunities around."


Both athletes will now be participating in the World Surf League tour next month. The competition, a French Polynesia reef break, also happens to be the site of the 2024 Olympic surfing contest. Gaining a home-field advantage will prove beneficial for Moore and Ferreira. Nonetheless, fans of the sport are sure to not soon move on from Moore's win; modern surfing as the world knows it today is believed to have originated in Hawaii. In the 4th century AD, Polynesians made their way to the Hawaiian Islands from Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands. Once there, they brought many of their customs with them, one of which was playing in the surf on Paipo (belly) boards. Thus, the art of standing and surfing upright on boards was invented in Hawaii.


It is no surprise then that Moore began surfing when she was only five years old. She would surf with her dad off the beaches of Waikiki in Honolulu, Hawaii. She writes on her official website, "Dad taught me how to surf when I was about four or five years old at Waikiki Beach and I was immediately hooked." At the age of 11, she began earning multiple wins at NSSA junior surf competitions. She went on clinched a record 11 NSSA amateur titles, and at age 16 in 2008, she became the youngest champion at a Triple Crown of Surfing event when she won the Reef Hawaiian Pro. More has since been the 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2019 WSL Women's World Tour Champion, in addition to becoming a member of the Surfers' Hall of Fame in 2014.


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