History in the Making

A chat with 13-year-old Caroline Marks, youngest ever women's world tour competitor

Marks, during her first WSL appearance in Round 1 against Carissa Moore and Silvana Lima. Photo: Craig
Marks, during her first WSL appearance in Round 1 against Carissa Moore and Silvana Lima. Photo: Craig

The night before the start of the Swatch Women’s Pro, 13-year-old Caroline Marks was told she would be surfing the next morning in her first ‘CT event, against the most talented female surfers in the world—and that she would be the youngest woman ever to do so. Instead of freaking out like many barely-teens would, the Florida-born prodigy calmly went down to Lowers, threw a jersey on, and paddled out for her first heat against two-time world champ Carissa Moore. Marks stopped by the SURFER office after bowing out to Tyler Wright in round two to talk about her recent amateur success, surfing against her heroes, and why she’s earned the moniker “Occy-line”.

Congrats on making the record books. How did you feel when you got the wildcard?

I was definitely stoked and nervous. I just went straight down to the beach to freesurf and tried to get in the zone and pretended I was surfing a heat. I’ve spent a lot of time at Trestles between events and I’m living here part-time, so competing there was really cool. It’s one of my favorite waves in the whole world.

How stoked were you to surf against a two-time world champ for your first ‘CT appearance?

So stoked. Carissa is my favorite surfer and I look up to her so much. She taught me a lot during the event and pushed me during our heat. Overall, it was a really great opportunity because my goal someday is to make the Tour one day, and this gave me a taste of what it’s like. I learned a lot about how they all prepare themselves for the event and their heats.

What board did you ride?

I was riding a 5’2″ x 17 ½” Chemistry board. It has a lot of drive because it was made for my trip to Indo this year when the waves got a little bit bigger, but since Trestles was so good these past two days, it worked really well there too.

She may have been. Photo: Craig
That little 5’2″ Chemistry board worked perfectly for Caroline this week. Photo: Craig

You’ve been on quite a tear this year in the amateur events. You just won the Vans US Open of Surfing Pro Juniors and have already pocketed 11 national titles between the NSSA and Surfing America Prime.

I can’t explain how happy I am to be where I am. It’s been like a dream run. It’s been so incredible and I’ve been having so much fun with it. This year, I really want to do well in the Surfing America Prime and defend my titles, get some good waves and have fun with it.

Sounds like you could be following in Carissa Moore’s footsteps.

My dream is to get a World Title, but I know how much work goes into being on Tour. I’m really competitive and being in this event helped me learn from the girls. But yes, my dream is definitely to win that title someday.

Has anyone ever told you that your style is eerily similar to Occy’s?

[Laughs] About 2 years ago my coach [ex-professional surfer CT Taylor] nicknamed me “Occy-line” after watching me surf. When we were in Indo, Damo started calling me “Cari-lupo”, like Occhilupo, as well. Occy’s a world champion, so I’ll take that as a huge compliment.

Recognize that Occy-esque bottom turn? Photo: Craig
How Occy is that bottom turn? Photo: Craig