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By Jake Howard
Local surfers from San Clemente pretty much stole the show as the 2019 WSL Championship Tour season got underway last week on the Gold Coast of Australia.
San Clemente resident Caroline Marks, 17, won the women’s Boost Mobile Pro and a $100,000 prize for her first professional victory, and San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino finished a close second in the men’s Quiksilver Pro—both events staged at Duranbah Beach on Sunday, April 7.
Andino was a whisker away from winning and seizing the No. 1 ranking in the world, blitzing his way to the final by defeating some of the world’s best surfers before falling to high-flying Brazilian Italo Ferreira in the closing moments of the competition.
Andino had led most of the way until Ferreira, who had been boosting next-level airs all contest, chose a small wave that Andino had passed on and took full advantage by launching a Hail Mary air and sticking the landing. The judges gave Ferreira the decisive score, and Andino had to settle for second.
“I was stoked to be in the final with Italo,” Andino said after returning to the beach. “I let that wave go, but I think 10 times out of 10, I would let it go again, just because it was actually a knee-high wave; but he did a full rotation, so good on him.
“It’s a bummer I wasn’t getting chaired up for my first event win, but it’s a long year and still a great result. I was two minutes away from winning that one. The American surfers are doing great; it’s ‘rad’ to see. I think everyone is sick of seeing those top three guys on tour win every event. I think everyone’s put their heads down and trying really hard, and it’s great for the sport.”
After pulling out the win, Ferreira now leads the WSL rankings and will set the pace for the world title race in 2019.
“Winning this event at the start of the year is unbelievable,” said Ferreira, who spends a fair amount of time in San Clemente working with shaper Timmy Patterson. “I knew it would be so hard to beat Kolohe. I feel really lucky to have beaten him and especially in waves like this. The support on the beach is so unreal. I’ve trained a lot in the last three months, and I got the win in the first event of the year. Let’s do this!”
Like Andino’s path to the men’s final, Marks had to conquer some of the best women in the world to get to the winner’s podium for the first time as a pro, knocking out seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore of Australia in the quarterfinals and defeating three-time world champion Carissa Moore of Hawaii in the final.
Marks, a goofy-footer, grew up in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., but has relocated to San Clemente to be closer to Trestles and train with her coach, Mike Parsons. She dominated the contest from beginning to end on the way to her first Championship Tour final and maiden victory. Coincidentally, she did it all on her father’s birthday.
“I’m really emotional right now,” Marks said in an interview with the World Surf League. “I can’t believe it. I’m speechless. It’s incredible to be a part of this sport. I just want to thank everyone at WSL; I’m so grateful.
“It’s so amazing to be a part of women’s surfing. Carissa has always been my hero, and she still is. To have my first win over her is incredible. I was actually laughing because the first time I came to this event I was in the trials, and I just lost in the first heat every single time, so to now win the event is amazing. This has been the best event and best week of my life. There’s still a lot of work to do for the rest of the year, but I’m definitely going to enjoy this moment.”
Not only was San Clemente well-represented on the podium, every surfer who made the final was riding a board made by a local shaper. Andino, Marks and Moore were all riding craft shaped by Matt “Mayhem” Biolos, and Ferreira was on a Patterson design.
The next CT contest, the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach, will begin on April 17 in Torquay, Australia. Ferreira is the defending champ, while Marks finished in third place there last year. Both the men’s and women’s fields appear especially hungry this season. It’s going to be fun to see what our local crew can do out there on the world’s stage.