Italo Ferreira and Carissa Moore Are Surfing's First-Ever Olympic Gold Medalists - Stab Mag
Surfing's first Olympic champion, Italo Ferreira. Photo by Pablo Jimenez/ISA.

Italo Ferreira and Carissa Moore Are Surfing’s First-Ever Olympic Gold Medalists

Here’s how they won.

Words by Ethan Davis

Italo Ferreira and Carissa Moore are surfing’s first ever Olympic gold medalists. 

After three days of competition, Olympic surfing’s final day began with the best conditions of the event window. Gold medalists would need to win three heats today, starting with the Quarters in clean two to three foot Shidashita shorebreak, which deteriorated thanks to wind throughout the day.

Highlights: Kanoa’s clutch full-rotation air reverse in his heat against Gabriel Medina to advance to the final in front of his hometown, Owen Wright’s tear-jerker of a beach reception, Carissa Moore’s gold medal domination.

Lowlights: Over use of the air reverse. There must have been 30 air reverses attempted today, by the sixth, they failed to leave a stark impression. 

Action wise, Kanoa’s clutch 9.30 against Medina was the highlight of the day. Photo by Pablo Jimenez/ISA

Two quick Kudoses 
The judges have gotten this event right, as there hasn’t been a score yet which felt underserved within a reasonable margin of error. Part of it is that the ISA has done their due diligence in vetting and preping the panel, and part of it is probably that judges names have been broadcasted to a global audience and if they fuck up here they’re on pitchforks. 

Also, the Australian commentary has been fantastic despite there only being one person with a clue, Barton Lynch. The NBC took a gamble giving Johnny Bryan, an English bloke with no clue about surfing a run, but he played the support role incredibly, building energy in the key moments and laying up questions for BL to tee off with giddy pearlers and fill in the blanks. 

Without further delay, here’s how the day went down.

Kolohe surfed well all event, but Kanoa looked unstoppable. Photo by Sean Evans/ISA

Kanoa and Kolohe kicked off quarterfinal proceedings this morning. It was a bummer these guys were pitted against each other in the quarters—it could have been a final. In the end, Kanoa carried his electric form from yesterday, and found tubes to get the nod past Kolohe.

Heat two saw Medina up against the spartan, Michel Bourez. I normally give short shrift to the Spartan’s surfing, particularly when he’s not in Tahiti or Margs, waves better-suited to his tree-trunk quads. But all event he delivered solid scores in unfavourable conditions. His alleyoop attempt, that he was nowhere near landing, was charming. It’s probably not a good idea to try and match Gabs’ air game, but what else can you do when you come face-to-face with the prize-fighter in cross-shore wind? Gabs had a slow-start, before he decided it was time to post some scores, throwing a significant backside rotunda into the endsection to advance to the semis. 

Heat three saw the local Hiroto against Italo. In the opening minute, Italo took a highline, wiggled down the line, and punted an enormous backside helicopter into the flats for a 9.73. Hiroto got a quick head dip after getting stuck in the impact zone for ten minutes, spelling the end to the Japanese male’s Olympic campaign. Italo backed up his opener with three backsider finners to bring his heat total to a healthy 16.30. 

Owen vs Lucas Mesinas was slower than a wet week. The Irukandji battler from Culburra managed to wrap his tentacles around the Peruvian man-of-war, but it occured with the passive bob of two gelatinous protoplasms meeting in a waterspout. 

The Irakundgji’s. Photo by Pablo Jimenez/ISA

In the women’s quarters, South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag butted heads with Portugal’s Yolanda Hopkins. Bianca linked together three-turn waves with the grace of a gazelle on a morning when it was tough to find a clean wall. Yolanda tried to poach her with long-shot finishes on a sucky end section. She missed, and the gazelle skipped away unwounded into the semi’s. 

“Spit is literally when you see air and water blowing out of a wave.” Wave stagnant heat two provided Chris Cote the perfect opportunity to cover surf curriculum 101. Among other topical subjects, they broke down what ‘building a house’ means in surfing terms, and discussed how ‘surfing in the rain isn’t a problem because you are already wet’. Caroline Marks got the nod over Costa Rica’s Brissa Hennessy, finding a 6.83 with two backhand stabs and backing it up with 5.67. A fine house indeed. 

Silvana Lima has a statue in her hometown and Carissa Moore has an entire day dedicated to her surfing skills. Who said surfing is niche again? These girls had an exciting heat, trading heavy hooks and finishing turns on user-unfriendly closeouts. In the end, Carissa summoned some Hawaiian mana leaving Lima chasing a hefty 9.76.

Powerful Silvana. Photo by Pablo Jimenez/ISA

Tsuzuki had the anti-venom today. She tagged the lip on bigger critical sections while Sally Fitz, the 4x WSL runner-up, struggled to find rhythm. Amuro advanced, leaving Owen as the lone Irakundji left in the mix. 

The men’s semi-final was a hero-making heat featuring the two most in form surfers of the event, Gabs and Kanoa. Gabs went excellent in the opening seconds with a solid backside rotation notching an 8.33. Kanoa composed himself, and answered back quickly with an air rev out of a steep bowl into an end section re-entry. After stomping backside air reverse after air reverse in the 7+ range, it looked like fate was sealed with Gabs advancing. Needing a 9.27 with five minutes on the clock, Kanoa found an inside speed run into a crumbly ramp, and cleanly stomped a full anti-clockwise rotation to get a 9.30 and move into the finals in front of his home country. Kodak moment. 

The second semi saw Italo going predictably into the firmament. After a morning saturated in air reverses, the loft of his rotations hardly left a stark impression. However, Owen’s turns lacked the mortal sting needed to immobilise the Brazilian, and in the end it was Italo’s heat to win. 

Italo advances to the finals. Photo by Ben Reed/ISA.

Semi 1 of the Women’s, saw Caroline Marks and Bianca Buitendag go head to head. Bianca got busy early posting a 6.67 for linking together some nice snaps from an outside peak. Only backing it up with a 4.33, it appeared as though Caroline was just waiting for her time to strike. The ocean did not cooperate, and Marks was only able to fetch a combined heat total of 3.67.

Semi Two, saw local Tsuziki Amuro against Riss Moore. In a slow, low scoring heat, the gate to the final was left way open for Tsuzuki who held priority and only needed a 3.84 to advance with one minute to go. A good-sized wave came which she spun for, got to her feet on, and then subsequently slipped off. Riss got lucky. 

The men’s bronze medal match saw Gab go to the air with an uncharacteristic low completion rate. He didn’t want to be third, and he haphazardly hucked fins at sections without strategic regard. Owen stuck to his conventional backhand wraps to jag a 5.47 and then found a rare left nug, finishing a float, snap and wrapping cutty on an awkward sidewash to score a 6.5. Gabs answered back with a 6 for his fifteenth backhand rote, but it was 0.2 under the requirement and he was left battling the shorebreak for the final minute. Owen’s reception on the beach was a tear-jerker. When you consider the mental hurdles that bloke has overcome, an Olympic medal truly is a mammoth accomplishment. 

Your men’s bronze medalist, Owen Wright. Photo by Sean Evans/ISA.

The women’s bronze medal fixture saw a scrap between Caroline Marks and Amuro Tsuzuki. It was incredibly slow and wave quality plagued the lineup the entire heat. Amuro had the only real wave, with a snap on a closeout that scored her a 5. It was enough. Her grin was infectious. 

Lumpy, unpredictable waves made for exciting viewing for the first olympic gold medal match. Italo’s early broken board was seemed like a good omen for the Japanese surfer, who got a 3.83 with a closeout snap in the downtime in between replacing boards. However, as the heat progressed Kanoa looked increasingly lost as Italo piled up score after score with big turns. The work was done with a minute and a half to go. Italo Ferreira is surfing’s first male Olympic gold medalist.

The women’s gold medal event saw Carissa and Bianca go head-to-head. Carissa got a wave early on where she ejected prematurely, which was questionable given how fickle the wave quality was. Luckily, she redeemed herself a few minutes later, finding a clean bowl to perform a wrapping cutback on, finishing with a critical tail-sliding snap for a 7. With ten minutes remaining she turned it up a peg, executing a nice arc back to the source and jamming a layback on a heavy end section for a 7.6. In the end, it was a powerful clinicing with 6+ points of separation. 

The 4x World Champ now adds an Olympic gold medal to the trophy cabinet.

What a cool moment. Surfing is a legit olympic sport. 


Women’s Quarterfinals

Heat One: B. Buitendag (9.50) DEF Y. Hopkins (5.46)

Heat Two: C. Marks (12.50) DEF B. Hennessy (6.83)  

Heat Three: C. Moore (14.26) DEF S. Lima (8.30)

Heat Four: A. Tsuzuki (13.27) DEF S. Fitzgibbons (11.67)

Men’s Quarterfinals

Heat One: K. Igarashi (12.60) DEF  K. Andino (11.00)

Heat Two: G. Medina (15.33) DEF M. Bourez (13.66)

Heat Three: I. Ferreira (16.30) DEF  H. Ohhara (11.90)

Heat Four: O. Wright (12.74) DEF L. Mesinas (7.83) 

Men’s Semifinals

Heat One: K. Igarashi (17.00) DEF G. Medina (16.76)

Heat Two: I. Ferreira (13.17) DEF O. Wright (12.47)

Women’s Semifinal

Heat One: B. Buitendag (11.00) DEF C. Marks (3.67)

Heat Two: C. Moore (8.33) DEF  A. Tsuzuki (7.43)

Men’s Bronze: O. Wright (11.97) DEF G. Medina (11.77)

Women’s Bronze: A Tsuzuki (6.80) DEF C. Marks 4.26

Men’s Gold: I. Ferreira (15.14) DEF K. Igarashi (6.60)

Women’s Gold: C. Moore (14.93) DEF Bianca Buitendag (8.46)


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