Who is Caroline Marks? The Team USA surfer who turned professional at just 13

Caroline Marks of Team United States reacts after winning her Women’s Round 3 heat against Mahina Maeda of Team Japan on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach on July 26, 2021 in Ichinomiya, Chiba, Japan

She is one of two women representing Team USA in surfing’s first ever appearance at the Olympics and she has been a star in the sport since she was a child

Surfing prodigy Caroline Marks, 19, grew up as one of six children in Melbourne Beach, Florida.

Her “fun” house featured a motocross track, a skateboard ramp, a basketball court, pool and was just steps away from the ocean.

She says that her first passion was actually horse riding – specifically the rodeo event of barrel racing, where the horse and rider run a pattern around barrels in the fastest time possible.

But with her two older brothers keen surfers, she was soon drawn to the sport, and won her first neighbourhood contest at the age of nine.

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Marks began to compete at a national level, and at 11 she won the under-12 Surfing America Prime, which is the top US amateur title.

Eventually, her family decided to move to San Clemente, California for her to train and compete, and she turned professional at 13.

At the age of 15 she became the youngest female to ever qualify for the World Surf League Championship tour.

She won her first ever CT event, which was also the first one in which the WSL paid out equal prize money to both men and women.

“I’m addicted to competing and that winning feeling,” Marks said.

“I want to impress my brothers, I want to impress my dad. I want to make everyone proud. It’s just something I’ve always had.”

She finished 2019 ranked as the second best female surfer in the world, behind teammate Carissa Moore, to qualify for the Olympics, and when the tour was suspended in 2020 because of the pandemic she remained at home and graduated from high school.

After the tour restarted in 2021 she has been on the podium at two tour events and is ranked sixth.

“To have a chance to make history like that and represent my country? Yeah, all that’s so insanely exciting,” said Marks.

The Red Bull-sponsored athlete says she tries to surf for at least two hours a day, before spending an hour in the gym or with a trainer.

She also says she does “tons of pilates” to help her core strength.

Now she is hoping to turn the years of preparation and training into Olympic gold.

“It feels surreal to actually put the Olympic jersey on,” she said after arriving in Japan and finally taking to the water.

“I feel just so proud and honoured to be here and represent my country. It was really fun.”

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