Oct 13, 2023 - Sports

Meet Florida's own Caroline Marks, world champion surfer

A woman draped in an American flag stands at the beach holding a big bowl/trophy.

Caroline Marks after her big win. Image: Courtesy of Red Bull

Caroline Marks became the world's top woman surfer in September after clinching the World Surf League (WSL) championship title following a competition in California.

Why it matters: The 21-year-old is bringing attention to women's surfing at a time when popularity for women's sports is booming.

  • One of her wins in 2019 marked the beginning of the WSL paying men and women equally.
  • "We pretty much surf all the same waves as the men," Marks tells Axios.

Flashback: Marks was born in Boca Raton and grew up in Melbourne Beach. Although she's now based in San Clemente, California, because it's easier to travel to contests from there, she returns to Florida often.

Zoom in: She's surfed Miami Beach, which she says has a different feel from most because of the city backdrop. "Miami does get really good sometimes," she says.

  • Her favorite Florida surf breaks are the ones she grew up at: Melbourne Shores and Sebastian Inlet.
  • "Being out there, my family and my friends and my schoolteachers and, like, the whole neighborhood — we all looked out for each other," she says.

What they're saying: After taking time off in 2022 for her mental health, Marks began working with a sports psychologist. Having him as a confidante and "not holding it all in" is helpful, she says.

  • During contests, she's focused on wave conditions and her own performance. "We're dealing with Mother Nature, and there's only so much you can control," she says.

What we're watching: Marks is slated to be back in Florida in November for a Red Bull-backed community surf event. (Details should be announced soon.)

  • Next year's pro surfing season runs January through September.
  • Marks has also qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the surfing portion of which takes place in Tahiti in July.

Pro tips: To start surfing, Marks recommends "just spending a lot of hours in the water."


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