Each year, the World Surf League's (WSL) seven regions witness countless competitors make their way through a season-long battle toward earning the No. 1 spot in their respective region. Some take it down to the wire, but some stamp their authority and make each opportunity count to claim that goal even before the season's over.
16-year-old Caroline Marks claimed back-to-back North America Regional Qualifying Series (QS) Titles surfing only three events within the region in 2018 by showcasing dominant performances in what's been a dream year for the teenager as a rookie on the Championship Tour (CT) -- where she's currently ranked No. 6. Marks also sits atop the overall QS rankings and looks poised to take that accolade by year's end as well.
A Remarkable Year In Review
Marks kicked off 2018 with her first-ever QS victory at the Florida Pro pres. by Sunshine State Lager QS 6,000 over CT sophomore Bronte Macaulay on home turf and set the tone for what would be an incredible run. It was a special for the young surfer with her entire hometown support system in full force on the beach throughout the event and a commanding performance to showcase.
"That was a perfect scenario and it gives me goosebumps just thinking about that win in Florida," Marks said. "If someone would've told me you're going to win your first QS in front of your hometown -- literally with schoolteachers, neighbors, friends, and my whole family -- I wouldn't have believed them. That was one of the most special wins of my life and a dream come true."
The 16-year-old then followed that performance later in the year at the Los Cabos Open of Surf QS 6,000 with a second victory, defeating CT veteran Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), and dominant lead over both the regional and overall QS rankings. Marks' signature backhand attack was unstoppable with some of the best swell Zippers has seen for the Los Cabos Open of Surf as she posted an excellent, meaning 8.00 or above, or near-perfect score in every heat.
"Cabo is one of my favorite events on the schedule just with warm water, it's close to home, and this year was special just having really good swell," Marks said. "It really allowed us to surf it out which I love a lot. I was feeling really good there after being sick and nearly not competing in it, but I started feeling better and decided to get down there which is funny because it ended up being one of the best contests of my life. Everything just came together. I had some of my family there, my coach and his family, all my heats were good against hard competition and I came out on top -- it was insane."
"Being on Tour everyone is so darn good, but I just had tons of confidence going back to the QS after getting some good results against the best girls in the world," Marks added. "I've had Tatiana (Weston-Webb) so much and she's such a great competitor and amazing surfer. She pushes me a lot so it's great to surf against her a ton. The waves were so good and we had a 35-minute Final to really battle it out which was amazing."
Marks sealed a remarkable regional run with her runner-up behind three-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore at the Paul Mitchell Neon Supergirl Pro QS 6,000. The 2018 CT Rookie showed her apt for a steep learning curve by taking down former event winner and CT veteran Coco Ho before falling to Moore's explosive Finals performance. But, Marks displayed just as much grace in losing as she does winning and took it as an opportunity to grow even more in a sport where athletes lose much more often than they win.
"Supergirl is another really fun event I look forward to and I just love Oceanside," Marks said. "It's such a fun wave being so rippable with some air sections and it's fun having the entire Tour there before the US Open. It's almost like a CT event along with a lot the top QS girls there. It's nice to sleep in my own bed for that one since I only get to do that for Supergirl and US Open, and I was just in a happy mindset with my family around me. I was happy to get second even though I really would've loved to win. But, I'm just so stoked on how this year has gone and it's felt incredible."
Now, Marks prepares for a big ending to her astonishing 2018 where she will double qualify, meaning she will qualify for next year's CT through both her CT and QS ranking, in her rookie season. Marks plans on ending her 2018 season CT's final stop, the Beachwaver Maui Pro November 25 - December 6 at Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawaii.
One of the Best Support Systems in Surfing
"It'll be great to have some time off at home so I'll get to surf and train a ton here in California," Marks said. "I'm going to go to the North Shore a little early then Maui just to prepare for that event. Honolua Bay looks like such an amazing wave and it's my first time there so I'm really excited. I'm feeling really good right now and just looking forward to it. I don't have any pressure so I'll just have some fun and hopefully finish the year with a bang."
For more information, please visit www.WorldSurfLeague.com.
Caroline Marks' Counting Results From 2018:
Florida Pro pres. by Sunshine State Florida Lager: 1st Place - 1,000 points
Los Cabos Open of Surf: 1st Place - 1,000 points
Paul Mitchell Neon Supergirl Pro: 2nd - 750 points
Total Points: 2,750