The North America region is brewing with emerging talent to take on the world's best in coming years and keep pace with its neighboring regions' talents. Two of those surfers were crowned the North America Regional Qualifying Series (QS) Champions after their incredible, respective seasons ended. Jordy Collins and Caroline Marks will have a big 2018 to look forward to and carry their hard-earned titles with them into a new year.
Background Information: Surfers compete among the seven regions (Australasia/Oceania, Asia, Africa, Europe, Hawaii/Tahiti Nui, North America, and South America) at the QS level while collecting points toward the international rankings each year and a regional champion is crowned by season's end. The winner of each QS Regional Champion Title is granted seeding into the highest rated events, a QS10,000, for the first half of the following year -- giving them the opportunity to qualify for the Championship Tour (CT).
A long season for the men's QS season, stretching from January 13 to November 19, ended with the 19-year-old Collins earning his first-ever North America Men's QS Regional Title. The Carlsbad, California, native delivered a great QS rookie year Quarterfinal result at the Jack's Surfboards Pro QS1,500 boosted him to No. 1 on the North America rankings, but a bad string of spring and summer results tested the young competitors' will -- earning an equal 81st at the Barbados Surf Pro immediately after getting to the No. 1 spot.
Collins was able to bounce back with an equal 9th at Soup Bowl before making his way into a needed Quarterfinal heat in Pismo Beach that gave him the points needed to overtake Evan Geiselman.
"There were a bunch of standout moments throughout the year just with Chile and the waves there, but to get this title is the best feeling that can't be topped," Collins said. "I'm stoked to get a few results throughout the year and string it together." Collins said. "My junior career has been pretty lackluster so to come out my first year on the QS and earn this title means a lot. It's reassuring to know I can put scores together, I can make heats, and I can win a title."
Collins also owes a bit of gratitude to the likes of Cory Arrambide after he eliminated reigning North America Regional QS Champion Kilian Garland in the Pismo Beach Open Semifinal to keep Garland from reclaiming the title for his own. Now, the emerging North America talent will vie for a spot among the QS elite right out of the gates in 2018 with a big opportunity Collins is not taking lightly.
"There's times when you ask yourself, ‘Am I really even a good surfer?' The QS just beats you down, but it's winning awards like this that keep you going," Collins added. "I'm psyched knowing there's not as much pressure trying to get certain numbers and seeds by chasing events -- I'll be seeded in those big events right away. It's going to be nice not having to do some of those events like random QS1,500s across the world I had to do this year so I'm really looking forward to just putting my focus into these bigger ones and giving it my all."
Caroline Marks' remarkable 2017 ended with her first North America QS Regional Title at age 15. Marks finished off with the regional season with an exclamation point at the Paul Mitchell Supergirl Pro QS6,000 -- earning a Semifinal finish and taking the title by 15 points over 2016 CT rookie Chelsea Tuach. The Floridian-turned-California transplant went on a tear after her equal 13th result to start the year by earning a Semifinal appearance at the Barbados Surf Pro and followed with a Quarterfinal result at the Los Cabos Open of Surf.
"This year has just been great and to cap it off with this title is pretty special," Marks said. "I didn't put too much pressure on myself this whole year and, working with Mike Parsons, he's really helped me a lot just learning how to keep having fun. Everything's felt like it's falling into place, but I've been training every day and surfing as much as I can every single day, so I feel like I've put the work in. It didn't just fall in my lap. I'm starting to love the training process and I know it's going to do nothing but help me."
But, the young Marks still keeps to her roots and has a big support system to fall back on throughout her career.
"I think looking back on growing up with my brothers and the competitiveness we have has really been a huge thing in what I'm doing now," Marks said. "I've still got them to surf with a bunch and they always push me so much. Even running heats with them in the water get so competitive it's not even funny. I'd come in crying from the water sometimes, but it's only made me better. I'm so thankful for them and my parents for all their support throughout my life, it's amazing to have them by my side."
More on Caroline Marks and her Championship Tour qualification will follow with the 2018 rookie class announcement
The 2018 North America QS season begins with the Florida Pro Men's QS1,500 and Women's QS6,000 presented by Florida Beer Company Sunshine State Lager January 18 through 24 at Sebastian Inlet, Florida.