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Making Her Mark: 17-Year-Old Caroline Marks Wins Surfing Season Opener

By Karen Price | April 07, 2019, 10:22 p.m. (ET)

Caroline Marks walks out of the water at the World Surf League Surf Ranch Pro on Sept. 9, 2018 in Lemoore, Calif.


Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks represent some of the best of U.S. women’s surfing, Moore the seasoned veteran with three world championship titles and Marks the teenage prodigy and last season’s rookie of the year.

On Monday in Australia, the two squared off in the final of the World Surf League’s Boost Mobile Pro Gold Coast tournament, and in the end youth prevailed.

This was the first event of the year for both women. With waves in the 1- to 4-foot range, Marks scored 13.83 to Moore's 11.67 claim her first victory on the circuit. Prior to this weekend, her best finish was third place, which she accomplished three times in 2018.

Marks also made history as the winner of the first Championship Tour event where the women's earnings are the same as the men's. Marks earned $100,000; a Women's Championship Tour win was previously worth $65,000.

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Marks, from Melbourne Beach, Florida, became the youngest surfer ever to qualify for the women’s championship tour when she came on board in 2017 at the age of 15. Last season was her first on the tour and she finished as the rookie of the year and held the No. 7 ranking in the world. She defeated Hawaii’s Malia Manuel in the semifinals and knocked off legend Stephanie Gilmore, the seven-time world champion from Australia, in the quarterfinals. 

Moore, meanwhile, debuted on the tour in 2010, finished No. 3 in the world as a rookie and won her first world title the very next year. The Honolulu native beat out Sally Fitzgibbons in the semifinals to earn her berth in the final. 

The U.S. will send up to two men and two women to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 when surfing makes its debut. Moore and Marks are among the top hopefuls to make the team.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.