Carissa Moore Makes Olympic History With First-Ever Surfing Gold Medal

Honolulu's Carissa Moore is the first woman to ever win an Olympic gold medal in surfing, as the sport made its Olympics debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games this week.

By Lindsay Weinberg Jul 27, 2021 10:02 PMTags

Hawaiian surfer Carissa Moore is the first woman to win gold in surfing at the Olympics.

The 28-year-old U.S. athlete took home the top prize on July 27, edging out South Africa's Bianca Buitendag for the Olympic gold medal. The event lasted three days at Tsurigasaki Beach in Japan, about 40 miles from Tokyo, where the competitors faced rough waters due to Tropical Storm Nepartak. 

This is the first time that surfing has been included at the Summer Olympics. On the men's side, Brazilian surfer Italo Ferreira earned the gold medal.

Moore broke down in tears on her surf board after the final buzzer sounded, and then blew a kiss to her fans at the shore, according to The New York Times.

"I feel super blessed, super fortunate. It's been an incredible experience," Moore said after her win, per "It's been a crazy couple of days, 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."

2020 Tokyo Olympics Candid Photos

"I woke up this morning and it wasn't a dream," the athlete captioned her Instagram, adding, "This was such a special moment for surfing. I'm so proud of all the athletes for how they showed up the last few days, put it all on the line, and shared our sport in the best way possible."

She concluded, "Dad it's been fun training with you for this moment. Guys we did it! This is for all of you. For the USA. For Hawaii."

Moore is a four-time World Surf League champion, but she never imagined she could be an Olympic athlete. "As a little girl it wasn't even on my radar because it wasn't a possibility," she told E! News earlier this month

The International Olympic Committee voted in August 2016 to add surfing to the Tokyo Games. 

Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

"That's when it really became a dream and something that I really wanted to strive for," Moore told E! News. "Just the idea of being a part of surfing's debut in the Olympics and then being able to be a part of the Games—that's the main stage. That's sports, you know. There's been so many beautiful moments that have gone down in history at that event, so I'm really excited to be a part of it."

She has been surfing competitively since 2004 and gives "credit" to her dad Chris Moore for believing in her. She said, "He saw the potential in me that made me believe in myself." 

Moore still finds that she's "extremely hard on myself," but is reminding herself to "laugh a little bit more, have a little more fun. Take the time to celebrate other people's achievements, too."

As she explained to E!, "Even if you don't do as well as you'd like, you feel good about celebrating other people and lifting other people up. And I think that's a really beautiful thing. I think a lot of the time in my younger journey, I was so focused on myself and so focused on doing what I needed to do, that I at times lost the joy. And the joy comes from sharing it with people."

Read more about her road to Olympic gold here, and get to know the Olympic surfers representing the United States by scrolling below.

Kolohe Andino

The 27-year-old from San Clemente, Calif., has won seven USA Surfing Champion titles and holds the record for winning the most National Scholastic Surfing Association titles of any male competitor, becoming the youngest to win one at age 15 in 2009.

Unfortunately, he had to miss the start of the 2021 season due to an ankle injury, but has been updating fans on his rehabilitation on Instagram after undergoing surgery in April, which has changed his perspective on competing.

"I'm ready to compete in a place of joy and lightness, with a sense that I'm not scared to lose," he told Red Bull. "I realize I'm happiest when I'm outside surfing. Why not really lean into that?"

Kolohe Andino

Kolohe married Madison Andino in 2018 and the couple announced in May that they were expecting their first child, a girl, with the athlete writing on Instagram. "Girl dads for the win!"

Some other fun facts about the surfer: His name means "rascal" in Hawaiian and his nickname is Brother, which originated from his two sisters who had trouble saying his name growing up. In a 2019 interview with Team USA, Kolohe revealed his training routine, which includes waking up at 3:30 a.m. to meditate before hitting the gym at 5 a.m. for a two-hour training session. From there, he hits the water for four hours before another training session at home before his 7 p.m. curfew.

John John Florence

Arguably the favorite to win the gold medal at the sport's inaugural Olympics, the 28-year-old Hawaii native won the Men's Championship Tour title in 2016 and 2017, making him just the fifth surfer in history to take home back-to-back titles. He's currently ranked No. 3 in the world. 

Like Kolohe, John John has had to overcome several injuries, including a ruptured ACL in 2019, which required surgery and almost took him out of the running to make the Olympics. But John John was able to snag the final spot on the U.S. team in December 2019, just beating out Kelly Slater. The following year, he won Pipe Masters 2020.

But John John suffered another blow, once again requiring surgery—this time on his other knee—in May.

"I woke up to the report from @drwarreng that everything went as well as possible, and the procedure I had will give me the opportunity to surf at full strength sooner than I had hoped," he wrote on Instagram following the procedure. "Feeling motivated to really know that the Olympics are attainable. I'm excited for this and I'm gonna do everything I can to make it happen!"

John John Florence

John John married his longtime girlfriend, Australian model Lauryn Cribb, in April 2020 and he recently started his outdoor apparel brand, Florence Marine X.

Some other fun facts about the surfer: He was named after John F. Kennedy Jr., who was nicknamed "John John." His hobbies include sailing, bee-keeping and filmmaking, and he's passionate about ocean conservation and sustainability.

Kelly Slater

To quote the World Surf League, "Kelly Slater is the greatest surfer of all time."

An 11-time world champion (winning five straight between 1993-1998), the 49-year-old legend is the sport's most well-known star and holds the record for being the youngest and oldest World Champion in men's history.

In December 2019, the Floridian just missed out on making the Olympics roster, snagging the alternate spot should Kolohe or John John not be able to compete in Tokyo due to their respective injuries. 

"I don't want to make it that way," Kelly told San Jose's Mercury News. "But if that is what it is I'll take my spot."

Kelly Slater

Kelly has been in a relationship with MIKOH Swimwear co-founder and surfer Kalani Miller since 2005, after famously dating Pam Anderson and reportedly romancing Cameron Diaz and Gisele Bundchen. Kelly has a 25-year-old daughter, Taylor Slater, from a previous relationship.

Some other fun facts about the surfer: Kelly co-starred in 27 episodes of Baywatch, playing Jimmy Slade in the early '90s. 

"I was very reluctant to do it," he admitted in a 2016 interview with Graham Bessinger. "I don't know how that happens but in my life at that time, that happened. I was so embarrassed that I was going to have to do the show and I just really didn't want to."

A talented guitar and ukulele player, he's performed with Jack Johnson and Ben Harper. He won back-to-back gold medals at the X Games in 2003 and 2004. Kelly serves as the executive producer of ABC's upcoming reality competition series The Ultimate Surfer, which he will also make appearances on.

Caroline Marks

When she was 15 the Florida native became the youngest surfer ever to qualify for the Women's Championship Tour and won the Rookie of the Year award in 2018. At 19, she's the youngest surfer competing at the Olympics, first qualifying for the team in December 2019 when she was still 17.

Caroline Marks

One of six children, Caroline was inspired to surf by her older brothers' passion for the sport.

"My family is everything to me," she recently told E! News. "That's what makes this journey so special for me is because I can share it with them. I have five other siblings and the reason I got into surfing is because of my older brothers and they're all my best friends. No matter where we are in the world, we always talk. I talk to them every single day and I can just feel the support halfway across the world or right with them."

Some other fun facts about the surfer: She follows the paleo diet, telling us, "It doesn't mean I eat steak all day, but a lot of protein and some good fats." She graduated from high school in 2020 and hopes to inspire young girls to do what they love and serve as a role model.

"No matter what path you choose in life, whether it's surfing or not surfing, do what makes you happy," she encouraged. " Shoot for the stars, try your hardest, you only live once—YOLO. Try your hardest, give it your all and have fun with it."

Carissa Moore

The 28-year-old Hawaii native has won four world championships since being crowned Rookie of the Year in 2010. The following year, she won her first title at 18 years old and still holds the record as the youngest world champion.

She's currently ranked No. 1 in the world and is a favorite for the gold medal heading into the Olympics.

Carissa Moore

Carissa married her high school sweetheart Luke in 2017 and the couple have two dogs, Maya and Tuffy.

Some other fun facts about the surfer: Jan. 4 is ''Carissa Moore Day'' in her home State of Hawaii. In 2018, she founded More Aloha, a non-profit program that aims to bring young women together in and around water to encourage and inspire one another.

Carissa opened up about her struggles with an eating disorder and body image in 2015, telling ESPN, "I struggled with binge-eating. That also led to, one time, trying to make myself throw up which wasn't something I'm very proud of. No one should ever think that low of themselves to inflict pain."

She later told PopSugar, "It's an ongoing journey and challenge," advising others to, "Be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Find the time to really listen to yourself."

Lakey Peterson

Lakey, 26, is currently ranked No. 17 in the world and won the U.S. Open surfing championship at just 17 years old. Like Caroline and Carissa, she also won Rookie of the Year and was the first woman to ever complete an aerial maneuver in a competition when she was 14 years old.

The Santa Barbara native is headed to Tokyo as an alternate, just missing out on qualifying in 2019. In April, she suffered a lower back injury, which caused her to withdraw from competing in several major events on the 2021 tour. 

Lakey Peterson

Lakey married Australian surfer Thomas Allan in February 2019.

Some other fun facts about the surfer: She posed nude with her surf board for ESPN Magazine's annual Body Issue in 2019, a a bucket list item for the athlete. "I've always felt like I want to represent myself and young females in a really positive, healthy way," she told the publication. "The Body Issue shows that you can be confident and enjoy that and celebrate that in a really healthy and gorgeous way."

A fan of YouTube makeup tutorials, Lakey admitted to being a fan of Hailey Bieber's channel in a 2020 interview with PopSugar.