HONOLULU, Hawaii (November 10, 2011) – Assigning a coveted wildcard for the most prestigious men's pro surfing series on Earth to a woman could be viewed as contentious, but not if that woman is reigning ASP world surfing champion Carissa Moore. After all, Carissa has been competing against the world's best women since she was 11 years of age - about the same time she was competitively mixing it up with her male peers like John John Florence and Kolohe Andino in a bid to push her performance level higher.
The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing presented by Rockstar Energy Drink, which starts this Saturday*, has granted Moore wildcards into the $145,000 Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa (Nov. 12-23), and the $250,000 Vans Hawaiian Pro at Sunset Beach (Nov.25-Dec.6). She is the first woman in history to be given the honor. Each of these events will showcase the talents of more than 120 of the world's leading male surfers... and the world's best woman. It's quite likely that Carissa will find herself shredding the waves and center-stage with old friends Florence and Andino again.
Before the ASP women's World Tour hit its final stop in Huntington Beach California back in August, Moore had already been crowned world champ. She totally dominated the 5.5-month, 7-event tour with three wins and six finals to become Hawaii's first female world champion in 30 years. She was also the youngest women's world surfing champion in history at 18. Anyone who ever paid attention to her surfing knew it was coming, and sooner rather than later.
Carissa returned home from the tour in August to the news that there were no rated events to support the women's Vans Triple Crown series this year, and therefore nowhere to perform for her home crowd. It was a true disappointment and a lost celebration for Vans, too. A tough economy and a slow period in the women's surf market saw sponsors of the Hawaii events fall away. Vans offered to put on a paid series of three specialty events for a select group of ladies, but the women's tour opted against it, stipulating rated events or nothing.
"It was 1981 when Hawaii's last world champion, Margo Oberg, raised the trophy here - years before we ever had a women's Triple Crown," says Vans Triple Crown Executive Director, Randy Rarick. "This was to be Carissa's year... Hawaii's year... and it was devastating for us to realize that there would be no stage for her. So after the ladies declined the specialty series, we realized our last card was a wildcard, and we were truly ecstatic to make that genuine offer to Carissa."
With wisdom and wits to match her talent on the waves, Moore is aware of the double-edged sword she has been handed:
"Everyone will have a different perspective and I've definitely heard some mixed reviews," says Moore of the talk about her wildcard. "But I'm excited and looking forward to it and hopefully that shows. I want to drive home that if there were events for the girls, I wouldn't be surfing in the guys events. But I think if a woman can (compete with the men) in a very respectful way, then it's appropriate. And if Kelly (Slater) would like to surf in one of our events, we'd welcome him," she says with a smile.
"I don't mind if I lose out there at Sunset or Haleiwa in a heat, I just want to surf there. I won the world title but I won it away from home and would love to have finished it here. The waves in Hawaii bring a different element to your surfing. You have to step it up with the different variables and bigger waves. I'm just excited to surf in front of a home crowd.
"These opportunities to surf with the best surfers are really important. That's how our sport evolves - by watching and being inspired by your peers. I love the challenge of surfing, of riding a wave and pushing yourself. It's important as an athlete to be in that environment, to strive to be better.
"It will definitely be cool to share waves with some of the guys I surfed with from our mini grom days - John John (Florence), Kolohe (Andino), and all those guys who I've looked up to since I was little."
And if you think she's going to be out of her league, think again. At 12 years of age, in a post-heat interview at Haleiwa during the women's Triple Crown of 2004, after losing to some of the world's best women of the time, she was far from daunted:
"I'm only 12, I've got more years to keep trying," she said, still visibly disappointed in herself for losing. "It wasn't that different to other contests really, the girls were just bigger."
Perhaps it won't be Carissa who will be nervous next week...