7 Things You Need to Know About Surfing Phenom and First-Time Olympian Caroline Marks

Caroline Marks is quickly earning her spot as one of the most inspirational and all-around badass women athletes in the world. The American pro surfer has clenched too many titles and championships to list in one sentence — 2020 Super Girl Pro champion and second overall in the 2019 World Surf League (WSL), to name a few — and is now headed to Tokyo, where surfing will make its Olympic debut. "That was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, accomplishments in my career," Marks told Forbes about qualifying.

The timing of everything couldn't have been more kismet. While Marks was prepping to compete in the final leg of WSL's 2019 Championship Tour, Red Bull was also in the process of producing a documentary centered on her pro surfing journey. When Marks got a second-place finish, it also meant she had earned an interim spot at the Olympics, and the crew was there to document the whole thing. "It's captured on camera. It gives me chills talking about it," Marks continued. "It means so much to me and I worked so hard to get there."

The California transplant is making history left and right, and we're just happy to be along for the ride. Here are seven fun facts you should know about the first-time Olympian, who's just 19 years old.

To learn more about all the Olympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. The Tokyo Olympics begin July 23 on NBC.

She's the First Woman to Be Paid the Same Prize Money as Her Male Counterpart
Getty | Chris Hyde

She's the First Woman to Be Paid the Same Prize Money as Her Male Counterpart

The fight for equal pay has been a long battle for women athletes who traditionally earn less than men. But in April 2019, Marks clenched the Pro Gold Coast championship and became the first woman surfer to win the same share of prize money as the men's champion. To get there, she defeated Stephanie Gilmore, a seven-time world champion.

She's Actually Afraid of the Water
Getty | Matt Dunbar

She's Actually Afraid of the Water

As one of the world's most talented and skilled surfers, you'd think the potential dangers of the ocean wouldn't be a concern for Marks. Well, you'd be wrong. She told Reuters that drowning is one of her biggest fears, but given that navigating those risks is part of the job, she's working on it. "You realize how long you can hold your breath and it's longer than you think," she said, regarding the breathing exercises she's been using to help conquer her fears.


Before Surfing, She Was an Equestrian

Prior to surfboards and salt water, Marks spent her free time in the horse stables. She rode horses competitively throughout her childhood and had a promising future as an equestrian. However, her relationship with horse riding was never like the one her brothers had with surfing. So she gave surfing a shot, and, well, you know the rest.

"It gives me the goosebumps talking about it," Marks told Red Bull. "I just really, really wanted to impress my brothers and I really wanted them to think that I was cool and accept me. They thought surfing was the coolest thing ever, so I was like, 'Well, I have to be really good at something that they think is cool.'"


At Just 19 Years Old, She Already Has Her Own Documentary

This spring, Red Bull released its short documentary on Marks titled That's Caroline. The 21-minute film details the very beginnings of her relationship with surfing and ends with where she is today and her future aspirations. In the doc, you learn about Marks's rise to fame through the perspectives of her older brother, Luke, who first introduced Marks to surfing, and her father, Darren.

Kelly Slater Is Her Biggest Role Model
Getty/ Matt Dunbar

Kelly Slater Is Her Biggest Role Model

Fellow Floridian and competitive surfer Kelly Slater was a big source of inspiration for Marks growing up, and still is today. In late 2020, she told Sports Illustrated that in addition to Slater, her role models included "girls I just thought were super gnarly," such as Serena Williams, Simone Biles, and Lindsey Vonn. "They were just so into what they were doing," Marks said. "That's where the best surfers come from, too. They just genuinely love surfing."


She Describes Her Style as "Function Over Fashion"

When she isn't in a wetsuit, Marks says you can catch her in leggings, a T-shirt, and some sandals. "It's definitely function over fashion," she said in a video interview with Teen Vogue last summer. The same can be said for her sportswear. Later in the interview, Marks revealed that she prefers long sleeved, one-piece rash guards over bikinis.


She and Fellow Olympian Carissa Moore Go Way Back

We love to see friendships among women athletes and legendary pro surfer Carissa Moore has been a big supporter and mentor to Marks since her first WSL Championship Tour back in 2018. "Carissa is such an amazing person," Marks told Shape, adding in details about her trip to Oahu. On the island, Moore spent hours teaching Marks new tricks, going over technique, and offering up sage advice. "I grew up idolizing her so it was amazing getting to know her and asking a bunch of questions," Marks said. Three years later, they're going to the Olympics together!