"I didn't know it would happen this fast." Those were the words of Caroline Marks on Monday after she claimed the championship trophy for the World Surf League's season opener at Australia's Duranbah Beach. What prompted those words: She's the league's youngest competitor at age 17 and staged a major upset at the Boost Mobile Pro by overtaking three-time world champ Carissa Moore with a score of 13.83 points, per the Australian AP and Sydney Morning Herald. Caroline's victory bodes well for other possible wins: Nearly half of the victors of each season's opening event have gone on to take the world championship.
It's an impressive feat for someone who 10 years ago was riding horses, not hanging 10. Caroline jumped out of the saddle and into the surf at age 7 thanks to the urging of her older brothers, and she says that "being around older people, a bunch of older brothers and their expectations of me [being] so high" helped push her to the level she's at today. Caroline, who was named the league's rookie of the year last year, acknowledges it will be a tough road ahead if she wants to claim the big trophy at the end of the season, but she's willing to work for it. "I know how hard it is, but I believe in my ability," she says. (Read more surfing stories.)