Caroline Marks shares what to expect at first-ever Olympic surfing event

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When at 19 Caroline Marc secured her spot on the U.S. Olympic team at a World Surfing League event in Maui in December 2019, there was no way she would know the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games would be wiped out by COVID-19 and postponed to July.

While it is still possible that the Games will not be held due to the current coronavirus crisis in Japan, Marks is preparing with his three teammates – Carissa Moore, John John Florence and Kolohe Andino – to surf 60 miles from Tokyo in the waters off Shidashita (sometimes abbreviated as Shida) for a period of four days between July 25 and August 1. One of 33 sports scheduled for the Summer Games, surfing will make its Olympic debut, albeit a year later than expected.

A surf prodigy who first took to the water in his home state of Florida and began full-time surfing at the age of nine, Marks aims to bring back home the very first Olympic gold medal in surfing.

“I was really ready to go in 2020 for the Games to play out, but I feel like this year I’m a lot better and prepared and even more excited and motivated,” Marks told InsideHook. “It was so disappointing to postpone it and have a whole year off, but I tried to take all the positives out of it and come back stronger and better. I feel like I’ve accomplished this. I’m just happy to show off what I’ve been working on. It will be really fun. It is a huge honor to be able to represent my country on such a big stage. This is the first time surfing has participated in the Olympics, so it makes history. This is something that no one can ever take away from you.

Caroline Marks surfs at Rocky Point in Haleiwa, Hawaii.

Trevor Moran / Red Bull Content Pool

The star of the recent film Red Bull This is Caroline, Marks will compete as a member of a team, a radical departure from the individualized nature of competing on the WSL Tour.

“Surfing is a very individual sport,” says Marks. “On the WSL, you surf your sleeves, you have your crew you hang out with and then you go. You are truly there with yourself. I think the team thing will be super cool and really different. It is also very motivating. You really want to do your team good and have teammates to put you down. Obviously we are all here to win ourselves, but at the same time we are all there as a team and we are all trying to win together. We all want to be in the final together, two men and two women. This is our goal. Everyone is really excited and thrilled to be surfing at the Olympics and showing the world our sport. I am excited to compete with everyone. Everything that comes my way and whoever comes my way. I think it’s gonna be awesome.

Although she has never surfed the waves in Shidashita before, Marks has surfed in Japan before and will have around 10 days to train in the water in July before the surf portion of the Games begins. Once July 25th arrives, as is the case with most surfing competitions, the exact competition days will be dictated by when the waves allow it.

Caroline Marks poses for a portrait

Caroline Marks poses for a portrait in Laguna Beach, California.

Olivia Doan / Red Bull Content Pool

“Surfing is such a unique sport. right? You never know what the waves are going to do, ”says Marks. “We rely on mother nature. The Games start on the 23rd, but we may not be surfing until the 27th because the waves do not provide. Surfing is a sport that you never really master because it is constantly evolving and there is never the same wave. This is what is so great about it. It’s the coolest sport of all time. Every day the ocean is so different and changes so much. You don’t really know what you’re going to get. We rely on the wind, the tide, the swell, the direction of the swell and all those things. We hope to have some great waves to perform on.

Unlike the reef breaks and point breaks that are common on the WSL circuit, Shidashita has a beach break, which means the waves it typically provides are more difficult to predict, according to Marks.

“I’ve never been there, but from what I understand it’s harder to get swells at this time of year,” she says. “A beach break isn’t as reliable as a reef or a point, but I think Mother Nature will. We know there are smaller waves, but we could have a typhoon and we could get some amazing and great waves. You don’t want a villain who makes things really windy and crazy and stormy, but typhoons, depending on the type, can bring big waves. I didn’t go to the exact location, but I think it’s really similar to where I’m from in Florida. Just a beach break with a lot of wind swells and short waves. Hope we just get a nice clean swell.

If they do, Marks is pretty confident what she’ll be able to do for Team USA.

“Everyone’s goal is to win gold and that’s absolutely my goal. But I just really want to put on a good show for everyone I know and I’m aware of everyone’s quality, ”she says. “I think winning gold would definitely be the biggest achievement of my career so far. It’s enormous. It’s monumental, especially for the very first year of surfing. Going for gold would be the best thing in the world. It would be ancient history and I hope I can make it happen.

So how is she going to do it?

“As surfers we all have to be really good to adapt. If anything, you’re just reacting, ”Marks says. “For me personally, I do better when I think less and I just react to the moment on the wave and do what feels right to me. The great thing about surfing is that nobody can tell you what to do in this wave. It’s like painting a picture on an open canvas and each canvas is so different. Not really thinking, just reacting.

Here are the seas cooperating, and Marks painting his canvas in gold.

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