Six Innings with Caroline Marks, Olympic Surfer and 2023 World Surf League Women’s Tour Champion

Barrel racing on horseback, soccer, softball, tennis, golf, and surfing – all sports that Caroline Marks, now a professional surfer, competed in as a young female athlete. A graduate of South Beaches (Fla.) Little League and the third oldest of six children, Ms. Marks spent her childhood like many other kids within the Little League® program – outside playing sports and being active with her siblings.

“My parents just encouraged us from a young age to have healthy habits. After school, they didn’t want us to just go home and sit on our phones. We were a very active family and we loved being an active family,” said Ms. Marks. “We would go to this place in Florida where my brothers would ride dirt bikes while I rode horses and then we would all go home together at the end of the day. There are a lot of good memories tied to my childhood.”

Hoping to be more like her two older brothers, Ms. Marks paddled out into the ocean and caught her first wave at nine years old. Over the next three years, her passion for surfing grew with each wave. By the time she turned 12, Ms. Marks knew that surfing was what she planned to do forever.

“When I was younger, I thought I had to find a way to make my brothers think I was cool, and what better way to do that than to do what they thought was cool, which was surfing,” said Ms. Marks. “I credit them for getting me into surfing, and then as I got older and chose it as my career path, they were there for me every step of the way.”

At 15 years old, Ms. Marks qualified for her first women’s World Surf League (WSL) Championship tour, becoming the youngest surfer to do so. In her first tour appearance, she placed third in three out of her 10 events, was named Rookie of the Year, and finished the season ranked seventh in the world. A year later, in her second WSL Championship tour, Ms. Marks finished second overall and earned a spot to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where she placed fourth.

After the WSL Championship tour was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Ms. Marks competed in 2021, placing sixth in the women’s division. In 2022, Ms. Marks pulled out of the season and decided to take time off to focus on her mental health.

“Mental health is very important. When you’re super young, you are just thinking about your next wave or your next meal,” said Ms. Marks. “But, as I got older, I learned how important it is to focus on your mental health and to have someone to talk to whether it is a friend, family member, or sports psychologist. Everyone’s journey is different, but focusing on it has been incredibly helpful for me, especially with all the tools that are out there.”

After her time off, Ms. Marks came back ready to compete. In 2023, Ms. Marks finished the WSL Championship tour victorious – winning her first surfing world title and securing her spot with Team USA to compete in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.

“All of my friends and family were there when I won the title. To be able to look them in the eye and feel the emotion, I get chills still today talking about it,” said Ms. Marks. “Seeing everyone who’s made sacrifices for me, it made it even more special, and it felt like everyone won that day.”

Caroline Marks
Caroline Marks stands with the 2023 World Surf League Championship Tour trophy.

To learn more about her experience as a female athlete and her ongoing surfing career, Little League sat down for a special Girls with Game 50 (#GWG50) Six-Inning Conversation with Ms. Marks:  

First Inning: As a young female athlete, competing in multiple sports from Little League Softball to competitive horseback riding, what was some of the best advice you received?  

I think it is really important to make sure that whatever you choose to do is your passion and that you are not doing it for anyone else. My parents always did a great job at not forcing me to do anything, but just wanting me to have healthy habits and live an active lifestyle. It is not necessarily advice, but I think that is why I love surfing so much because I was never forced to do it, but rather was able to do it on my own terms and they supported me in choosing that direction… Another piece of advice I live by is to not base my happiness on results, which can be tough in a sport like surfing. But surfing is so important to me that no matter what the results are I wake up every day excited to do it and I am grateful to be able to say that.

Second Inning: How do you think you have carried your years of playing team sports, like soccer and Little League, into an individual sport like surfing?  

Surfing is an individual sport, but I believe it takes a team to accomplish your goals. You might be the only one out there doing it, relying on yourself in the moment if you have a bad day because you don’t have a teammate out there with you, but it still takes a team of people like your family, coaches, nutritionists, and trainers. While it is very rewarding and feels great to get the win because you are the one who had to go out there and do it, it is still a team effort and I love having my own little team around me.

Caroline Marks with her parents and five siblings

Third Inning: Was there a defining moment for you in your early years of surfing that motivated you to keep going and get to the professional level you are at now?  

A few years after I started surfing, I decided to compete in the biggest amateur surfing event. I decided to sign up for the event because my older brother was doing it. I was just getting into surfing, so it was one of those ‘let’s just see how this goes’ competitions because I didn’t really know what was going on or who was who at the time. I ended up winning the U12 girls’ group and it made me realize for the first time that I might be good at surfing… My brothers were really encouraging, and I got to surf all day, plus, I got a trophy. I just remember leaving the competition thinking I could do this forever.

Fourth Inning: In 2023, you placed first at the Rip Curl World Surf League Final. Could you tell me more about this experience and what you felt in that moment?  

It’s hard to put everything that I was feeling into words, and I don’t think anyone would have been able to describe it accurately to me beforehand. It is just something that you have to feel for yourself to understand. For me, it was a euphoric, on top of the world, floating in a cloud feeling. It was very rewarding because of the work that I have been putting in since I started surfing and looking to accomplish a goal like that. It was pretty insane.

Caroline Marks just minutes after winning the women’s 2023 World Surf League Championship.

Fifth Inning: In July, you will be competing as a member of Team USA in the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. With previous experience competing in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, what are you most looking forward to this time around?  

To medal would be amazing and that’s a big goal of mine. I would just like to put on good performances and push my level of surfing. I think if I do that, the results will come. I don’t prepare for the Olympics any differently than I do for other competitions. There is an added pressure because it happens only once every four years, and you are representing your country, but for me, that is cool and empowering. Plus, you’re competing against countries that are different than those that are on the WSL tour. I could end up competing against someone from Germany, so that’s an exciting part of it, too.  

Sixth Inning: If you had the opportunity to speak with a young female athlete who is just starting her athletic career what advice would you give her?

Find your passion and have fun with it. For me, surfing has always been fun and continues to be fun and I am grateful to be able to say that. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure it is your passion and that you are doing it for you and not anyone else. Enjoy the ride, enjoy the highs and the lows, and just dream big.

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NOTE: The Little League Six Innings Features are a piece of the #GWG50 Celebration in 2024, with interviews of Girls with Game who graduated from Little League programs and continued to make an impact on female sports throughout their careers. To learn more about this initiative, visit The #GWG50 celebration is proudly supported by DICK’S Sporting Goods, a long-time Little League partner that is committed to creating opportunities for girls and women in sports and will be activating around key events and milestones this year.