Caroline Marks fought to keep up with her older brothers. Now she’s making surfing history

Caroline Marks won her first World Surf League championship last year. Photographed in San Clemente, Ca.
Caroline Marks won her first World Surf League championship last year. Photographed in San Clemente, Ca.
(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)
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Caroline Marks is riding the wave of success early.

The 18-year-old surfer got into the sport to keep up with her older brothers, who still serve as her main motivation even as she’s making her mark against the top professionals in the game.

She won her first World Surf League championship last year at the Boost Mobile Pro in Australia. She beat Stephanie Gilmore and Carissa Moore, who have 11 world championships between them, en route to the victory. This event was particularly significant because it was the first time that the women’s champion was paid the same prize money ($100,000) as the men’s champion in the parallel Quicksilver Pro competition.

Marks was paid the same prize money for winning in Australia as the male winner. Photographed in San Clemente, Ca.
Marks was paid the same prize money for winning in Australia as the male winner. Photographed in San Clemente, Ca.
(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

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But Marks isn’t necessarily surfing for the money or intentionally fighting for gender equality.

“I’m sure the girls who have been on tour for a while have thought a lot more about it than I have,” she told the Wall Street Journal after the historic moment. “I just don’t even think about the money. I just kind of go out there and surf. But the equal pay thing is amazing, for sure.”

Marks became the youngest surfer to qualify (she was 15) for the women’s Championship Tour in 2017. In 2018, her first year in the major leagues, she was named rookie of the year after being ranked No. 7 through a season of competition, and she has a solid chance at participating in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo where surfing will make its debut.