It’s not every day that you are taught to surf by a pro… and by pro I mean the youngest person (male or female) ever to qualify for the World Surf League Championship Tour, and the 5th ranked female surfer in the world!
Caroline Marks is a sixteen year old bad ass.
She has the worldliness of someone in their mid twenties, the grit of a seasoned athlete, and the realness of a teenage girl. I had the pleasure of hanging out with Caroline on the North Shore of Oahu a few months back, heres what went down…
Hawaiian Adventures With A Surf Phenom
– My Day With Caroline Marks –
I stepped out onto Pipeline and eyed the gigantic waves (probably 6 feet high, which were massive to me, but of course didn’t phase Caroline at all). It was overcast, chilly for Hawaii standards and drizzling with rain. Caroline was out in the surf ripping it up with her coach. It seriously blows my mind that she often spends 5+ hours in the water a day… I get tired after only 30 minutes of “surfing”!
Caroline’s 3-hour sunrise surf session was soon complete and she comes running up onto the beach to say ‘hi’. I immediately noticed how down to earth she is, which I wasn’t necessarily expecting for someone who has achieved so much, at such a young age. Caroline began surfing when she was a young child and started winning competitions by age 9.
At age 11 Caroline became the youngest surfer ever chosen for the U.S.A National Team. She comes from humble beginnings, a family of 6 kids and is currently home schooled as she tours the globe. Caroline’s latest achievements include placing 1st at the Florida Pro earlier this year, and recently coming in 3rd at Bells Beach in Australia.
In fact, Caroline and I are both from Melbourne… myself from Melbourne, Australia and her from Melbourne Beach in Florida. It turns out we also both grew up horseback riding and mucking around in the dirt – small world right?!
Surprisingly, Caroline and I have a lot in common. We are both breaking the stereotypical molds of male dominated professions, traveling the world for our jobs, love a good adventure, are both obsessed with dogs and chocolate. My trip to Oahu was the perfect opportunity for Caroline to mix things up and hit the trails with me, and for her to push me out of my comfort zone in the water.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best surfing conditions for a beginner during my time exploring Oahu. Winter usually brings big waves, winds and often choppy conditions… BUT we found a suitable cove and figured we give a surf lesson a try.
It was a surreal experience being out in the water with a professional surfer, having a 1:1 hands-on lesson. I felt completely out of my depth, like I was going to stack it immediately if I (managed) to catch a wave, and honestly a little sorry for Caroline showing me the ropes!
During our lesson, Caroline pushed me up onto a couple of waves and overall we had a good laugh. Her positive attitude to life is infectious and we were all smiles despite the poor conditions. Then it was my turn to take Caroline on an adventure… out of the water!
The sun was rapidly setting so we chose a short pill-box hike overlooking Ehukai Beach (also known as Banzai Pipeline). It was fascinating hearing about Caroline’s global surfing adventures as we hiked our way to the viewpoint. I picked her brain for future travel inspiration:
Favorite place to Surf? Fiji (with Australia as a close second)
Most wild adventure? Surfing a secluded beach in Greece
Biggest inspiration? Kelly Slater
Biggest fear? Drowning
Ultimate career goal? To be the best surfer in the world, of course…
I love that at such a young age Caroline is striving to inspire other young girls and women to surf, to push their boundaries and to ultimately have fun. Plus, we can all learn a thing or two from her insane work ethic and willingness to put in the hard yards for success.
“Ultimate career goal?” To be the best surfer in the world, of course – Caroline Marks
I might not be the next surf prodigy BUT I did come away from my meet-up with Caroline feeling inspired and stoked on life.
Disclaimer – Thank you to Red Bull for making this meet-up possible. For disclosure purposes, Caroline is sponsored by RedBull and they flew me to Oahu so we could make this adventure happen. The photos in this blog post were taken by myself, Renee Hahnel, and AJ Avrin (RebBull Media House).