canada africa partner reservation Carissa Moore on how Hawaiian identity affects mental health

Carissa Moore on how Hawaiian identity affects mental health


Photo illustration by Aly Lim

In January, Carissa Moore shocked fans when she announced her retirement from competitive surfing. With an Olympic gold medal and five world championships to her name, the 31-year-old Hawaiian American is ready to focus on the next chapter of her life. The 2024 Olympics in Paris will be Moore’s last competition – at least for a while.

For APIA Heritage Month, Moore opened up about that next era, which “simplified” her life, and why she chooses to be vulnerable about her mental health. Read it all below, in her own words. And read more mental health journeys from APIA perspectives here.

I am lucky to have grown up in an open family, who has always talked about our feelings and shared a lot about what is going on. That’s really ingrained in being Hawaiian. In our Hawaiian community there is the idea of ​​the aloha spirit, showing love and being respectful to other people. We are very open and warm, and that has influenced the way I live my life.

I was inspired by my father to be open about my mental health. In high school, I struggled with body image and an eating disorder. Many people jumped to conclusions and wrote their own stories about what was going on. And my father said, “Just have your story. Then no one can write it for you.” It was cool to see the positive feedback I got from that, and it helped me through what I was going through. I didn’t feel so alone. That really encouraged and strengthened me to stay open.

I had to check myself and I thought, okay, I went back to the drawing board. I’m going to reset. I’m going to rebuild myself.

Right after I won my third world title, I went into a three-year slump where I was just going through the motions. I wasn’t motivated. I lacked passion and purpose. It was the first time surfing wasn’t so much fun. I did it, not for myself, but for everyone else. I hit a low point where I felt like surfing wasn’t fun and it was seeping into my personal life. I had just gotten married and it was supposed to be the happiest time of my life.

I had to check myself and I thought, okay, I went back to the drawing board. I’m going to reset. I’m going to rebuild myself. And that started with simplifying my life. I started my charitable foundation, Moore Aloha, which helped me give back, find that love and share surfing with the next generation. Seeing people excited about surfing for the first time reminded me why I fell in love with it in the first place.

There has been a lot of inspiration for Moore Aloha, but it really came from a desire to share more love. I know how difficult it can be to navigate being a woman, life and all the pressures and expectations placed on us. So I wanted to create these events and programs where women felt safe to come together to share, encourage and empower each other. I think there is something beautiful in vulnerability and sharing our own stories, and in so much strength that can come from that. Because when we know we are not alone, the possibilities are endless.

I also have a bag of resources that I go to when I’m not feeling good or struggling with depression, anxiety or stress. A lot has to do with movement. I love being in the ocean. Surfing is one of my best tools for feeling better. By serving others and giving back, I can also reconnect with love and my heart. I like to keep a diary every day; I have a collection of diaries. I like yoga. Take some time in nature. Those are some of the things I like to do to stay healthy and happy.

Earlier this year I made the big decision to no longer compete full-time on the Championship Tour. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a few years. I was exhausted. Competing at the highest level is very intense. I needed some time to shift focus and follow the joy, follow my heart. It’s been a fun past few months. I’m busy in a different way, and a little less stressed, which is great. It pushed me to be creative and think about other things than just surfing. The best things come when we’re a little bored, when we’re a little lost. I’m grateful for this time, and that I can give myself the space and grace to figure it out.

– As told to Shari Straker; additional reporting by Yerin Kim

Shari Straker is the social content producer at PS. She is a graduate of Craig Newmark’s Graduate School of Journalism and has more than four years of experience. She currently manages both of PS’s TikTok accounts and is obsessed with all things social media, pop culture, and fashion.

Yerin Kim is the features editor at POPSUGAR, where she helps shape the vision for special features and packages across the network. A graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, she has over five years of experience in pop culture and women’s lifestyles. She is passionate about spreading cultural sensitivity through the lenses of lifestyle, entertainment and style.