Caroline Marks and the world surfing champion trophy
© Pat Nolan/World Surf League

Caroline Marks: "You have to believe in it to do it"

In a stunning performance, Marks wins her first ever surfing world championship title.
By Jen See
6 min readPublished on
In front of a beach packed with her family and friends, Caroline Marks, 21, celebrated her first ever world championship title on Saturday at Trestles. She started the day ranked third in the world, and after dispatching world number two Tyler Wright, Marks reached the final showdown of the day. She needed just two heats to beat five-time World Champion and Olympic gold medalist Carissa Moore. As Marks came into the beach, her fans floated into the lineup on inflatable alligators in a tribute to her Florida roots.
After a year away from competition last year, the victory felt especially rewarding to Marks. The break came after she struggled with her mental health, but she’s come back stronger and determined to be her authentic self. Throughout the 2023 season, her strong surfing showed her refound confidence and that she has renewed her deep love for riding waves. Next year, Marks is set to compete at Teahupo’o, a wave that suits her and where she will be among the favorite to bring home the title on the world stage.
We caught up with Marks immediately after she received her first world championship trophy. Here’s what she had to say about her successful year, about winning the title, and how she’s found strength in being herself.

How does it feel to have won your first world title? Are you completely buzzing with the excitement of it?

Caroline Marks: It’s a totally surreal experience and it’s so special. It’s a life-long dream that I made happen at 21. It’s just really special. I got a little taste of the title race during my second year on Tour. Then Covid happened, and I took most of last year off. So, this year, it felt really good to be back in form. I feel like I really just gave it my all this year. It feels — I’m so stoked. It’s just epic.

Did you expect to be here when you started the season this year?

To be honest with you, I was pretty vulnerable at the start of the year. I went through a tough time last year mentally and physically, and you know, it takes time to get back. I definitely knew that I put a lot of work in, but I was really vulnerable. I always believed in myself that I’d be here. There's definitely moments when you doubt yourself, but I always felt in my heart that it was going to happen one day. And you have to believe it to do it.

Caroline Marks after winning the 2023 World Title

Caroline Marks after winning the 2023 World Title

© Thiago Diz/World Surf League/Getty Images

What do you feel like you learned from your time off that you brought back with you to competition?

I think I learned a lot about myself. I learned about what makes me happy, who I should be around to be happy, and a lot of little things. What works for other people might not work for you. That’s another big thing: I’m doing me! That’s the best way I can do it, because there’s only one of me. I should just do me. I also have a whole new appreciation for surfing. I feel really grateful to be here. It made me feel a lot more grateful and I feel like I needed a little kick in the butt.

Is there an example of something you changed to make it feel more like you are doing you?

I’m still growing up. I’m only 21, and I have a lot to learn. I think it’s only natural. I’m still making mistakes all the time. That’s the beauty of life, right? You’re always learning. Always surrounding myself with positivity has been really huge. And, not trying to be like anyone else. Just trying to be like me. I think that’s the thing that’s been really cool this year. I’m still learning and I definitely don’t have it figured out. I feel like I've definitely learned a lot about myself which is really cool.

Caroline Marks surfs in Match 2 of the Finals at the Rip Curl WSL Finals

Caroline Marks surfs in Match 2 of the Finals at the Rip Curl WSL Finals

© Pat Nolan/World Surf League/Getty Images

Did you feel like you needed to fit into a mold when you first came on Tour?

When I qualified, there was a huge age gap between me and the next youngest girl. I felt like a little bit on my own program. And you know, the girls who were on Tour had a relationship with one another for so long. It took a few events, but everyone was really cool and welcoming. And I was just trying to be nice to everyone, because I was really starstruck. And then, as time goes on, it’s like, I’m really starstruck, but now I want to beat you.

Look, all of us girls want to rip each other’s heads off in the water. But when we come on land, we’re all friends and we all have so much respect for one another, and that’s really cool.

I just felt the mojo today. I’ve been surfing really well, and I feel like I did a lot of preparation for this day.
Caroline Marks surfs at Main Break in Margaret River in Australia

Caroline Marks surfs at Main Break in Margaret River in Australia

© Trevor Moran / Red Bull Content Pool

How did you keep your head together today under the pressure of this one-day final?

I was like, you know what? Look at the beach. There are so many people here who are supporting me and so many people who love me. No matter what happens, that’s so cool. That’s a win in itself. I just felt the mojo today. I’ve been surfing really well, and I feel like I did a lot of preparation for this day. I put in a lot of work.

So, I just had a great relationship with the ocean today. After my first few waves today, I just felt like I was in a good rhythm. Honestly, I just kept thinking, I’m surfing Lowers with no one out. I was focusing on that. And then before I knew it, I was in the final, and I took the win.

What are you most looking forward to now?

I think just letting this moment sink in, and enjoying this moment with my closest family and friends. That’s what I’m so excited for.

What advice would you give to a young girl coming into surfing now?

Just have fun. I’m surfing because I have fun and I love it. Put a lot of hours in. Enjoy it.

Have fun — and shoot for the stars.

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Caroline Marks

A multiple national champion and the youngest female to compete in a World Surf League event, Caroline Marks is surfing’s young phenom.

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