Caroline Marks Has Entered The Next Phase Of Her Career - Stab Mag
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Photo by ISA/Red Bull

Caroline Marks Has Entered The Next Phase Of Her Career

After making the CT at 16, she just won her third event.

features // Apr 21, 2021
Words by Mimi LaMontagne
Reading Time: 6 minutes

I first met Caroline Marks in May 2017. 

We were in Maresias, Brazil, for the Rip Curl GromSearch Finals, and she was just a 14-year-old kid with bleach blonde hair and more enthusiasm than seemed healthy. Of course, she won—and I remember thinking that this young girl from Florida had a lot of talent and a bright future ahead of her. 

A year later, she qualified for the WSL Championship Tour.

Caroline is becoming increasingly familiar with this pose. Photo: Zak Noyle/Red Bull

Caroline came onto the CT at 16 years old. By 17, she wasn’t just a rookie, she was competing for a World Title and vying for her spot on Team USA for surfing’s debut at the Olympics. Now, just over 12 months and one pandemic later, Caroline is less than 100 days from competing for her first gold medal.

A lot can change in a short period of time, and when I watched That’s Caroline, a new film from Red Bull Media House on Caroline’s life and career, that’s what struck me. 

This was filmed just over one year ago, yet Caroline is a very different person. Her hair is a different colour, she’s grown up a bit, and she’s surfing with more passion and aggression than ever. Despite being the youngest female on Tour, she’s no longer the grom. She looks like a woman, she surfs like a woman, and she’s ready for the world to recognize that. 

The film itself is a wonderful way to spend 21 minutes of your day, and you can enjoy this viewing experience by clicking play above.

It’s also worth noting that, within days of That’s Caroline dropping, she won her third-ever CT event. “I feel so emotional after everything that’s led to getting here,” Marks said. “I’m just so stoked. This is the sickest feeling ever.” 

Florida-raised surfers are taught to let no section go to waste. Photo:Pat Nolan/Red Bull.

And it must be. Anyway, while we wait for her to win a World Title, Caroline has been so kind as to give us a bit more insight into her world.

Stab: In That’s Caroline, it’s clear how much things have changed for you since filming wrapped at the end of 2019. Do you feel that, too?
Caroline Marks: A lot has changed. It’s actually crazy how much has happened since then. I don’t exactly feel like a different person, I just feel like so much has happened. The last year has made me realise just how much can change in a short period of time. I’ve realised how grateful I am to be back doing what I love the most, competing and surfing and being with everyone on Tour. When I’m here competing against everyone, I have no FOMO, it’s like I’m exactly where I need to be. I think this last year was a little weird because we haven’t had that. 

But now, watching the documentary today? It’s so crazy to look back to just a year ago. So much is different, even my hair is even a different colour. I think I grew up a little bit. It’s crazy looking back and thinking wow, I was going through all of that at 17, competing for World Titles and the Olympics… it’s crazy.

Yeah. I mean, not only that but you qualified at 15. You basically grew up on the World Tour. Do you feel like you’ve had a chance to reflect on that?
I’m only 19 now, and looking back I’m like, I qualified at 15 years old!? That’s crazy! But when you’re in the moment things happen so fast and time moves so quickly. 

In the past year, I have been able to reflect on my life and some of the best and hardest moments, and I’m like, ‘Wow I’ve had such a rad life and career so far.’ But in a lot of ways I feel like I’m just getting started. There are so many things that I want to accomplish. 

The backhand bread and butter. Photo: ISA/Red Bull.

I feel like when you’re 15, you don’t think very much–you’re in the moment. I think if anything at that age I was just starstruck. I was really lucky because I had so many great people surrounding me, like my family and my coach Mike Parsons. And I think that’s what helped me deal with everything and keep it together. 

You know, people looked at it from an outside perspective and said, “You’re only 15, or 16, and you’ve got nothing to lose!” But I mean, I still wanted to do really well and I wanted to win. Suddenly I was on the big stage and all of these people are watching, and there is a lot of pressure…even if it’s just from myself. I knew that I was young though and I knew that if anything, I was in the best position, thinking ‘These girls can’t lose to ME!’ Not vice versa. That mentality helped me get through it.

How do you think your perspective has shifted since you first made Tour? You’re no longer the grom on Tour, you’re a woman surfing at an elite level. That’s a big shift.
It’s funny because in a way I still am the grom on Tour. I’m only 19 and I’m constantly learning every day. But since I qualified so young I guess it does feel like I’m a woman on Tour now, and I’ve been here for a few years now. But regardless, I still feel like a grom. All I want to do is surf every day and learn. Even though I feel like that’ll never change no matter how old I am.

Caroline could still somehow find a way to get a 5 in those conditions. Maybe even a 6. Photo: Red Bull

And how have you adjusted to the Olympics being pushed back a year?
I wasn’t totally shocked that they were postponed, I was just really happy that they weren’t cancelled. I was obviously really excited in 2020 but I thought ‘Okay, no worries, I’m just going to take this year to get better.’ I worked really hard and I surfed a lot, really a lot, and just tried to get better at surfing. 

Honestly, I feel that much more prepared and excited and ready. It’s coming up quickly, which is crazy! I can’t believe it’s been a whole year.

It feels like you came on to Tour as a grom, you surfed for two years and qualified for the Olympics. Then you had the year off, and now you’re back… established, winning and here to stay. Does it feel like this is the next phase of your career?
Yeah. It does feel that way. I think for me looking forward, my goals are obviously World Titles and Gold medals and things like that, but my main focus right now is just to get really, really good at surfing. I want to be doing my absolute best surfing. I want to be super gnarly in the water, and I want to push myself and my surfing and the progression of the sport. 

If you do all of that, everything else just falls into place.

She’s come a long way from Melbourne Beach. Photo: David Clancy/Red Bull.

And overall, are you happy with the film?
I am definitely not a fan of hearing myself talk but I am really stoked with how it came out, and it’s something different than I’ve ever put out. It shows more of me and who I am as a person, and shows how much my family means to me. I really like it and hopefully everyone else likes it.

You’re going to have to deal with a lot of questions on barrel racing… (hint: watch That’s Caroline)
Yeah I know! But that’s it, so many people don’t know these things about me and who I am. I was a full-on horse rider. And then people don’t know how brutal my brothers were to me, I would go home crying almost every day! These are the little bits of personality that I’m excited for people to see.

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