Teen surf star earns shot at Olympic glory, history

For the first time in history, the sport of surfing will make its debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – and 17-year-old Melbourne Beach native Caroline Marks is going for gold.

At age 15, Marks became the youngest women to qualify for the women’s Championship Tour. In 2018 she ranked No. 7 in the world, and by 2019 she was No. 2, second only to Carissa Moore, 27, of Hawaii, whom Marks competed with throughout the season.

Last April, in the finals of the Boost Mobile Pro Gold, Marks won the championship title after besting Moore in the finals.

In December, Moore took the No. 1 spot after winning her fourth surfing world title at the Maui Pro – with Marks in close pursuit, but ultimately eliminated in the quarterfinals.

With just two surfers of each gender able to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, the former competitors are now Olympic teammates. On Dec. 9, both Marks and Moore appeared on the “Today” show to discuss their latest achievement.

“That was probably one of the biggest moments of my career, if not the biggest,” Marks said.

“There’s a lot of great competitors at the Olympics; it should be really, really exciting.”

With a judging process that’s described as being similar to snowboarding, surfers must navigate ever-changing conditions – and mother nature – in a bid to secure two winning runs.

“You can ride pretty much as many waves as possible but they only count your top two,” Marks said.

“You let some pass by and then, I think some you just know. Something inside you tells you this is the wave and I’m going to go.”

Over the holidays, Marks spent time in Melbourne Beach, visiting with friends and family. She was also on hand to mingle with young surfers who took part in the 4th annual Caroline Marks Surf Camp in Cocoa Beach on Dec. 21, and later that week had the opportunity to try surfing in the Typhoon Lagoon wave pool in Orlando.

The XXXII Olympic Summer Games will take place in Tokyo, Japan, from July 24-Aug. 9, 2020.

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