She’s 18 and Ready to Win a Gold Medal in a Dangerous Sport

On a weekday evening in mid-October, 18-year-old Caroline Marks is padding barefoot along the volleyball-size stones at Lower Trestles in south Orange County, a renowned surf spot not far from her house. There is no one else in the water. The sky looks like spilled orange paint. The pandemic and other human concerns don’t reach this secluded beach, but Marks and her five-foot plank of foam and fiberglass come here every day to hone her craft of carving waves better, at a younger age than any woman in history.

Into the roaring surf she paddles, the model of a new American archetype: the little sister of brawny brothers she quickly surpassed in athletic prowess if not in physical size. About 12 years ago, Marks was riding horses or dirt bikes with siblings Luke and Zach in their pine-needle-covered backyard in Melbourne Beach, Fla., or shooting hoops with them, the Atlantic Ocean lapping at the sand nearby. At eight she received her first surfboard, a battered hand-me-down from Luke, the best surfer in the family at the time. “I left all his stickers on,” Marks recalls. “I felt so cool.” KEEP READING