Earlier this month, 16-year-old Caroline Marks arrived at the first Championship Tour (CT) event of the year amid mega-hype. She is the youngest person ever to make it to the elite-level Tour, and some have already pegged her as a future World Champ. Along with that record-setting on the world stage, she has regional expectations on her shoulders, too: As a Florida native, she has been hailed as that state's next surf hope, in the tradition of Champs Lisa Andersen -- who hand-picked her for Roxy -- and Kelly Slater.
Now, with her big debut under her belt (at the Roxy Pro, where she finished in fifth place), Marks has been prepping for contest No. 2, the Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach, ripping the waves there to shreds. Before the contest kicks off, she broke down her take on how her first event as a CT surfer went, and why it was no surprise that Lakey Peterson is now No. 1 in the world.
Now that you have wrapped up your first-ever contest as a CT surfer, how do you feel the event went? The first CT event of the year was kind of a dream start for me. I had a few big heat wins, everyone's so talented on that Tour, so winning a heat is definitely not easy. Being a rookie, you come up against the top seeds in your first heat so, I'm really stoked. I feel like I surfed well, and surfed smart heats. That was main thing, I just wanted to surf well, I wasn't too worried about the result.
That was my main focus, I wasn't putting too much pressure on myself. But obviously there was tons of buildup - rookie on Tour, youngest one to make the Tour, which is great, but it also can put a lot of pressure on you. I as trying to block out all the pressure. Sometimes I can thrive off of that, everyone's watching, so I get to show what I got.
Does traveling with your family help you shut out some of that hype?
Obviously, it's so good to have some of my family here. I'm one of six, so there's eight of us total. A few of my family are members re here-my mom's here, and my brother, and my little sister. My mom actually doesn't know too much about surfing, which is epic because she can get my mind off of it. She doesn't try to be my coach, she's just my mom. So I can do my thing at the beach with my coach, and get my boards figured out, and then come home and my mom's my mom.
And then, my little sister is so epic. She's six and she flew halfway around the world to see me compete. So is my brother. He was filming a lot of things and is going to put together a piece of this stop, which cool, to help document things like this, so when I'm older I can look back and remember this time.
It's so cool to have family here. Australia is a long leg, it's three months, so to have that support means a lot and helps me out a lot.
Does your little sister Victoria surf, too?
She gets out once in a while. She's actually surfed quite a bit here, because it's warm and a few days were a little bit smaller, so it's perfect for her. Obviously, it's a point break, so she can go way down to the inside and get perfect little rights. She loves the water, she's in the pool all day, so if she's not surfing, she's swimming or running around.
In terms of your mental prep, what techniques or tools do you use to get centered, and that self-confidence of yours? Confidence is a thing that you really need to have, especially on this Tour. Everyone is so good and being a rookie, you can get beaten a lot, which can really rattle your confidence. It doesn't mean you're not surfing well, it just means, look, everyone's good, and sometimes it involves a little bit of luck with the waves. You have to get the best waves and surf the best. I think it's epic where the sport is at, and so rad to be a part of. This is exactly where I want to be.
I'm a pretty confident person, and hopefully I can keep that, I try to do the best I can. I believe in myself, and I have a lot of people that believe in me. Obviously, my coach, Mike, is really good with that type of thing. He says it's not a sprint, it's a marathon, and you have to remember that always, no matter what position you're in. For me, I just want to enjoy every moment -- enjoy the wins, and enjoy the losses. You also can't base your happiness off results either. Life is so good, we're surfing the best waves in the world with a bunch of rad girls.
How have you been prepping for Bells?
I went a little early to Bells, there was a good swell. I'd never been there before, so I wanted to get myself prepared and learn that wave. I mainly went for the swell, though, I was so excited. But it's different to adapt to -- the waves are a little colder, a little different. It's always nice to go early so you feel comfortable and can adapt. There's an hour time difference - which isn't that much, but all the little things.
What kind of advice or insights have Lakey and Snips given you, heading into Bells?
Lakey's fiancé live there, so she's been there a lot. And she's been on tour for seven years, so obviously she's been there tons of times and has lots of experience, so they've given me tips on things like what to bring. And Mike - which boards to bring - all those things that help you get prepared for the contest. …Before Snapper, we were running a bunch of heats together, and I feel like that helped us out a lot. In the offseason you're not competing for three months or something, so it was cool to get a few heats under your belt and get it going.
Bells looks like a really fun wave. I always thought it would be one of my favorite events on Tour, so I'm looking forward to it. Snips said it might suit my surfing, because it's a powerful right. I I had to bring huge pieces of luggage because you're going for warm, then you're going for freezing cold, then you're going for cold, but not too cold.So you've gotta bring everything - tons of wetsuits and tons of clothes. Bikinis. Wetsuits….All of it.
Given that you've been training with Lakey, did you see her Snapper win coming?
Lakey is such a great surfer and she's worked really hard for it. After I lost in the contest I was routing hard for her, I think her last win was six years ago or so, which was a long time ago, especially for how good she is. Now that I'm working with Mike, I know how hard she works, and that really pushes me.
Catch Marks, Peterson, and the rest of the world's best live daily on the WSL and Facebook in the Rip Curl Women's Pro Bells Beach between now and April 8.