Carissa Moore, 18, becomes youngest-ever world surfing champion

Carissa Moore lost to Stephanie Gilmore in the final of the Roxy Pro Biarritz on Friday in France, but not before clinching enough points to be crowned the youngest-ever ASP world surfing champion.

Moore, 18, was presented with the title after the semifinals. After she defeated French surfer Pauline Ado in the first semifinal, in three-foot surf, her closest rival, Sally Fitzgibbons, needed to win the event to carry the race to the seventh and final ASP Women’s World Tour contest.

Fitzgibbons lost to Gilmore in the other semifinal.

“It’s been a great event and I was just smiling during the whole final,” said Hawaii’s Moore, who finished third last year in her rookie season. “I have been thinking about this for a long time since I was a little girl. Just to be here right now and being world champ is pretty crazy.”

The legendary Kelly Slater, a 10-time world champion on the men’s tour, won his first title when he was 20, and had been the youngest.
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Carissa Moore 2011 ASP Women’s World Champion from Nike 6.0 on Vimeo.

Moore ended the four-year reign of Gilmore, a 23-year-old Australian who had won titles each year since her 2007 rookie season. Moore also becomes the first female surfer from Hawaii to win a women’s title since Margo Oberg in 1981. (The late Andy Irons claimed consecutive men’s titles from 2002-04.)

Gilmore’s victory in the Roxy Pro final was her first this season.

“Her turns out there were really strong and I thought she was surfing better than me but I got a little head dip and it was the excitement of everything,” said Gilmore, who beat Moore by a score of 17.27 to 15.50in the best-two-waves format. “She is definitely the strongest of everyone this whole year and she has been in every single final and that is a new record. To beat the freshly-crowned champ is pretty cool.”

Moore,an 11-time national amateur champion, had for years been labeled a future superstar. She made her first statement when she was 10 and placed third at the 2003 National Championships in a boys’ Mini Grom final.

“The first time I saw Carissa competing at the Nationals, I could tell she had this special talent,” said Janice Aragon, executive director of the National Scholastic Surfing Assn.”Every year, she would blow my mind with phenomenal surfing and technical skills that massively improved with each year. She became unstoppable. No one yet has come close to her competitive dominance at the national level.”

Moore is known for her humble, almost shy nature out of the water, and her cunning ability to catch the best waves and execute flawless turns and cutbacks.

“I dreamed of surfing at this level my whole life since I was a little kid and I don’t think you can ever expect or anticipate the feeling,” she said.

— Images of Carissa Moore in action and during her world title celebration are courtesy of ÃÃé ASP/ Aquashot