After a consistently commanding performance through wildly varying conditions in the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup at Australia’s Merewether Beach, Hawaii’s 4-time world champion, Carissa Moore, handily won the event, the second on this year’s World Surf League championship tour, and regained her No. 1 place on the Jeep Leaderboard.
But as she stood on the winner’s dais in faraway New South Wales, thanking Newcastle’s legendary world champion Mark Richards for the board he shaped that accompanied her silver trophy, her thoughts were with the folks at home.
“Oh my gosh, it’s been a really special day being here with Mitch (Ross, her longtime coach ) and his family, and my husband, and I’d also like to thank my friends and family who are watching from home,” Moore said, smiling through tears, “and this is a special win —I’d like to dedicate this to my grandma, who passed away shortly before we came here. “
Moore actually moved into first place on Thursday, after taking flight off the lip of an Australian wave into a lofty spin known as an air reverse — and landing it perfectly — to score a near-perfect 9.9 out of a possible 10 points and win the quarterfinal over French surfer Joanne DeFay.
She also got barrelled, at a beachbreak where tubes were in short supply.
“You have to keep reinventing yourself when you’re amongst this field,” Moore said. “All of these girls are so good and constantly pushing the level of surfing.”
She sustained the momentum to triumph today, when, in bigger, cleaner waves, she rode to victory, demonstrating a maturing confidence and tactical savvy that make her a lethal competitor combined with her distinctive power, elasticity, musicality and breathtaking speed.
The beach erupted in applause and cheers as, after three swooping rides, culminating with a 9.4-point textbook wave in which commentators praised her “trademark roundhouse cutbacks, big frontside carves” and the way she went for broke— “she could have laid back, but she pushed that board to the point of release on that first turn”— Moore rode all the way to the beach, stepped off her board, thanked the crowd at the water’s edge and went straight to her husband, Luke Untermann, for a kiss.
She had warm praise for her competitor, rookie Isabella Nichols, who dispatched fellow Aussies Stephanie Gilmore, 7x world champ, in the quarterfinals, and Keely Andrews, in the semifinals to place second.
In Moore’s semifinal heat, graced with toothy blue waves smoothed by light offshore winds, the Hawaiian powered down and up and every which way through critical, overhead sections and hacking cutbacks with her signature creativity and grace, scoring a 9.37 and 8.37 to dispatch Californian Caroline Marks, her U.S. teammate for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
“Inside, outside, out the back, anywhere she seems to go she’s dropping hammers,” a WSL commentator said of Moore after the semifinal.
“Carissa looks so electric,” another said as she wrapped the final.
Crowd favorite Italo Ferreira, the defending 2019 men’s world champion, won the final against fellow Brazilian Gabriel Medina, a 2x world champ (the 2020 championship tour was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic).
The male half of the U.S. Olympic surf team didn’t make a splash at Newcastle event: Hawaii surfer and 2-time world champ John John Florence was defeated early on by local rookie Morgan Cibilic, while Californian Kolohe Andino was sidelined by an injury.
Moore placed second to Aussie Tyler Wright in the women’s first event, the Women’s Maui Pro, which started at Honolua Bay and finished at Pipeline on Oahu’s North Shore.
Watch the replays at worldsurfleague.com/.