Caroline Marks - PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

Caroline Marks Wins 2019 Florida Pro, Kirra Pinkerton Places Second

- Marks Earns Back-to-Back Wins at Sebastian Inlet, Schweizer Keeps Title in New Smyrna Beach - Reigning World Junior Champ Pinkerton and 2018 Florida Pro Winner Geiselman Finish Runner-Up
Caroline Marks and Noah Schweizer - PHOTO: © WSL / John Ferguson

Caroline Marks (USA) (L) and Noah Schweizer (USA) (R) claimed commanding wins at the second annual Florida Pro. PHOTO: © WSL / John Ferguson

SEBASTIAN INLET, Florida/USA (Friday, January 18, 2019) – The World Surf League (WSL) Men and Women’s Qualifying Series (QS) Florida Pro crowned Caroline Marks (Melbourne Beach, Fla.) and Noah Schweizer (New Smyrna Beach, Fla.) its respective champions after an electric final day of competition. Marks defended her title in amazing fashion with some of the event’s top performances and Schweizer delivered an outstanding, aerial display that led the way to his first-ever QS victory.
The stars aligned for Marks once again with another dominant performance that culminated in back-to-back Florida Pro victories. The 16-year-old phenom took over the Final against 2018 World Junior Champion Kirra Pinkerton (San Clemente, Calif.) with brilliant wave choice in the wave-starved heat and still managed to post an excellent 8.83 (out of a possible 10) -- the women's top single-wave score. Marks had her eyes on the win all week and made that a reality to continue her reign over the QS rankings.
Caroline Marks - PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

Caroline Marks (USA) surfing her Semifinal heat at the Florida Pro QS 3,000 on Friday, January 18, 2018. PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

“It’s pretty crazy having the whole town rooting for you and they’re so supportive that they would’ve been there for me win or lose,” Marks said. “I’ve just been so happy and confident all week that it just felt right. I’m just stoked I got to surf First Peak, it’s one of the best waves there is so that was a great feeling. Every heat I was starting with a solid wave and that put me into a good rhythm until the slow start in that Final. But, Kirra surfs so amazing she could get into a bomb and drop an 8 on me at any point.”
Marks began her day against one of the event threats, Australian Sophie McCulloch, and shut any hopes of an upset down right away with an excellent 8.50 to set the momentum in motion. The Floridian-turned-California transplant now has three QS titles to her name after posting the event’s highest heat total, a 16.10 (out of a possible 20), in her Semifinal bout as she prepares for her second year among the world’s best at the Championship Tour (CT) level beginning in April.
“I think it’s going to be a really fun year and wish this one was another big event, but I’m so happy they were able to bring it back for the opportunity,” Marks said. “Before coming here I had a lot of fun sessions at Rincon and Ventura so I was in a really good head space. This was the same board I rode at the Surf Ranch and it’s magic, I may take it to Snapper. But, it’s going to be exciting year and I’ve been working on so many things like airs and different maneuvers.”
Noah Schweizer - PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

Noah Schweizer (USA) surfing his Quarterfinal heat at the Florida Pro QS 1,500 on Friday, January 18, 2018. PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

Immediately following Marks’ chair-up the beach to begin the season, an all-New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Final got underway. Schweizer unleashed his aerial assault at the first peak wedge and stomped an excellent 8.50 to start. The wave consistency slowed down with the rising tide and opportunities became scarce, but the 22-year-old was able to back it up with a 6.30 to all but seal his maiden QS win over defending champion Evan Geiselman.
“If I was ever going to win a contest this is how I would have wanted to win my first, right at home,” Schweizer said. “I don’t even know what to feel, it’s just amazing. That was the longest ten minutes ever at the end because Evan can get an eight at any moment, he’s gotten one in almost every heat, but the tide just got on it too much. To see everyone here that I looked up to growing up and taking it out in front of them is pretty nice.”
Schweizer faced off against fellow New Smyrna Beach native Daniel Glenn in his Quarterfinal but brought the fireworks to a much-anticipated Semifinal against an in-form Michael Dunphy (Virginia Beach, Va.). The 22-year-old posted back-to-back, near-perfect scores with two of the event’s most spectacular air-rotations to garner a 19.30 heat total.
“I knew I was going to have hard heats all day and just knew I’d have to do my thing which is big airs,” Schweizer said. “It helps just surfing here since the NSSA days and I love this wave, it’s so fun. I just did this one since it was close to home and see how I go. Now that I’ve done well and got some money I might try to do some more competitions if I can get into them -- whatever I can get into I’ll do.”
Kirra Pinkerton - PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

Kirra Pinkerton (USA) surfing her Semifinal heat at the Florida Pro QS 3,000 on Friday, January 18, 2018. PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

Reigning World Junior Champion Pinkerton starts her 2019 QS campaign off in great fashion with a runner-up and 2,250 points. The tricky lineup of Sebastian Inlet’s first peak took the 16-year-old out of her game plan and couldn’t find the waves she needed after a brilliant run through the week. But, Pinkerton still was able to cross off one of her key goals along the way and has many more in mind to get done this season.
“Coming into this event I didn’t know how it was going to go with Florida being so unpredictable and getting those points is such a good way to start,” Pinkerton said. “That’s one of the higher results, points-wise I’ve had even after winning Pismo last year. Even against Caroline I knew I had a chance to win after Worlds gave me so much confidence and I wasn’t almost carefree here. Before the event I said I really wanted a heat with Caroline and the only way I could’ve was a Final so I’m stoked to get that heat. I want to prepare for the big events now and see myself in the Top 6 by the end of this season – one of my goals is to get a win in a QS 6,000 so we’ll see how it goes.”
Geiselman started his day with a nail-biter against upcoming talent John Mel (Santa Cruz, Calif.) that went down to the final minutes. But, Geiselman wasn’t leaving his Semifinal to chance and came out of the gates firing with a 16.23 heat total to start over fellow Floridian threat Chauncey Robinson (Melbourne Beach, Fla.). The inconsistent Final didn’t give Geiselman the opportunities he needed to keep his Florida Pro crown, but gladly handed the title down to long-time friend Schweizer.
“Noah kept it in New Smyrna and I’m so happy for him to win it, someone needs to sponsor this kid,” Geiselman said. “He’s one of my best friends for a long time and couldn’t be more excited to see him get it. I was really happy with how I surfed this event and I just wished the waves stayed a little more consistent. First Peak is a quick, one section kind of wave when it’s like this which made it hard on the backhand. There wasn’t much more I could’ve done and I feel like my surfing came a long way last year so I’ll just look to continue that, keep making heats, and put myself in a great position before the end of the year.”
For more information, please visit www.WorldSurfLeague.com.
Women’s Florida Pro Final Results: 1 – Caroline Marks (USA) 15.90 3,000 points 2 – Kirra Pinkerton (USA) 2.66 2,250 points
Men’s Florida Pro Final Results: 1 – Noah Schweizer (USA) 14.80 1,500 points 2 – Evan Geiselman (USA) 13.73 1,125 points
Men’s Florida Pro Semifinal Results: SF 1: Evan Geiselman (USA) 16.23 def. Chauncey Robinson (USA) 11.60 SF 2: Noah Schweizer (USA) 19.30 def. Michael Dunphy (USA)
Women’s Florida Pro QS 3,000 Semifinal Results: SF 1: Caroline Marks (USA) 16.10 def. Sophie McCulloch (AUS) 9.43 SF 2: Kirra Pinkerton (USA) 9.63 def. Summer Macedo (HAW) 6.23
Men’s Florida Pro QS 1,500 Quarterfinal Results: QF 1: Evan Geiselman (USA) 13.30 def. John Mel (USA) 13.00 QF 2: Chauncey Robinson (USA) 12.60 def. Nolan Rapoza (USA) 11.80 QF 3: Michael Dunphy (USA) 16.83 def. Logan Hayes (USA) 10.60 QF 4: Noah Schweizer (USA) 12.67 def. Daniel Glenn (USA) 7.00
About the WSL The World Surf League (WSL) is dedicated to celebrating the world's best surfing on the world's best waves through a variety of best-in-class audience platforms. The organization, headquartered in Santa Monica, is a global sport with regional offices in Australasia, Africa, North America, South America, Hawaii, Japan and Europe.
The WSL has been championing the world's best surfing since 1976, annually running more than 180 global events across the Men's and Women's Championship Tours, the Big Wave Tour, Qualifying Series, Junior and Longboard Championships, as well as the WSL Big Wave Awards. The League possesses a deep appreciation for the sport's rich heritage while promoting progression, innovation and performance at the highest levels, and in doing so crowns the undisputed Men’s and Women’s World Champions across all tours.
Showcasing the world's best surfing on its digital platform at WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL has a passionate global fan base with millions tuning in to see world-class athletes like Kelly Slater, Stephanie Gilmore, Tyler Wright, John Florence, Lakey Peterson, Paige Alms, Kai Lenny, Taylor Jensen, Honolua Blomfield, Carissa Moore, Gabriel Medina, Courtney Conlogue and more battle on the most dynamic field of play of any global sport.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com
Sophie McCulloch - Photo © WSL / John Ferguson

Internationals Decimate Opening Day, Locals Thrive at Florida Pro

- Australia's McCulloch, French competitors Bulard and Lartigue Lead Opening Day Charge - Stuart, Florida's Benedetto Topples Top-Seeded Pauline Ado - Defending Champ Marks Comes Out Firing
Neis Lartigue - Photo © WSL / John Ferguson

Neis Lartigue (FRA) surfing her Round 1 heat at the Florida Pro QS 3,000 on Tuesday, January 15, 2018. PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

SEBASTIAN INLET, Florida/USA (Tuesday, January 15, 2019) – The World Surf League (WSL) Women’s Qualifying Series (QS) got action underway at the Florida Pro QS 3,000 after Monday’s lay day and steamed through Round 1, as well as Round 2 Heats 1 – 8, at Sebastian Inlet. Building swell filled into the inlet throughout the day, providing two-to-four foot windswell and some of the top QS competitors made their debuts in stunning fashion. Men’s competition was called off for the day as the women took over the lineup and delivered inspiring performances.
Round 1’s top performance belonged to Biarritz, France, native Neis Lartigue with a brilliant 15.26 (out of a possible 20) heat total. Lartigue locked in one of the highest single-wave score of a 7.93 (out of a possible 10) en route to her debut win and had fellow competitors in a combination situation -- meaning they needed two new scores to total Lartigue’s. Now that the nerves are out of the way, the Frenchwoman will be up first when Round 2 resumes.
“It was tricky at the beginning of the heat and I wasn’t stressed, but I felt weird on my first few waves,” Lartigue said. “I told myself to calm down and just surf my way. I prefer to go right, but my scores came on my lefts so I was just trying to stay busy. It’s always a little nerve-racking to get the season started but I can relax today after getting a good heat total like that.”
Canelle Bulard - PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

Canelle Bulard (FRA) surfing her Round 2 heat at the Florida Pro QS 3,000 on Tuesday, January 15, 2018. PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

But, it was her French compatriot Cannelle Bulard of Reunion Island that topped Lartigue with an excellent 8.33 after freefalling from attacking the wave’s lip. Bulard went on to earn the day’s highest heat total of a 15.66 in her outstanding debut. Though, the 25-year-old knows it’s just the beginning and there’s plenty of work to be done.
“It’s really good to get off to a start like that in the first event of the year,” Bulard said. “I would love to continue this kind of momentum. I watched the contest last year and it looked so cold, I was debating on coming but my friends talked me into it and I’m glad I did. It’s great traveling with friends I’ve known for a very long time to have that comfort and I think it showed in my heat.”
Sophie McCulloch - Photo © WSL / John Ferguson

Sophie McCulloch (AUS) surfing her Round 2 heat at the Florida Pro QS 3,000 on Tuesday, January 15, 2018. PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

Australian newcomer Sophie McCulloch started the day’s competition in-form with a solid 12.67 heat total in Round 1 Heat 1 and carried that fire into Round 2 for a second victory. The Alexandra Headland, Queensland, native drew from her Florida Pro experience last year and turned into success early on to start building momentum. McCulloch’s terrific Pro Junior career, earning multiple wins around the world, is behind her and now the 19-year-old only has one goal in mind this season.
“I was super keen on coming back after last year and I don’t think the cold gave it the best impression, but I’m loving it this time,” McCulloch said. “It was pretty important to get busy and settle the nerves right away. I got my groove and started finding those better scores, but it looked completely different even this afternoon [for my second heat]. My goal this year is to qualify. I think rather than focus on looking at the end result I’m just going to try and surf how I freesurf. Nerves got the better of me last year so my coach this year just said to me go out and just surf how you know how.”
Zoe Benedetto - PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

Zoe Benedetto (USA) surfing her Round 2 heat at the Florida Pro QS 3,000 on Tuesday, January 15, 2018. PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

Early shockwaves were sent through the event as local wildcard Zoe Benedetto (Stuart, Fla.) helped eliminate former Championship Tour (CT) competitor Pauline Ado (FRA) in Round 2 Heat 5. The 13-year-old smashed a closeout section and rode out clean to earn a near-excellent 7.67, catapulting her from fourth to first place. Benedetto had her expectations set coming into this event, but now boasts a win over one of the sport’s elite.
“First event of the year and I beat a real professional surfer, I can’t believe that,” Benedetto said. “I knew if she got a good wave she would crush it so that was crazy. I wasn’t really nervous about the people in my heat, but more so the waves because they were breaking ten feet from the shoreline at times. It feels good to win with my family and everyone here, and especially with me and my friends just wanting to beat each other all the time. I don’t want to lose here or have a bad performance being the wildcard after losing first round getting it from WSL last year -- you want to earn that and prove yourself.”
Caroline Marks - PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

Caroline Marks (USA) surfing her Round 2 heat at the Florida Pro QS 3,000 on Tuesday, January 15, 2018. PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

The day concluded with defending event champion Caroline Marks (Melbourne Beach, Fla.) returning to her native home state victorious in Round 2 Heat 8. The 16-year-old looked sharp in her debut and came out of the water wanting more despite garnering a 14.90 heat total. Marks is eager to defend her title among the talented field on hand and will look to improve moving forward.
“It’s awesome to start the year off at home and I felt really good in the water, I just wanted to catch more waves,” Marks said. “I’m such a frother and just want more and more every time, but I think that was a good first heat to start with. There’s a lot left in the tank which is good and I felt like that was just a warm-up. It’s so fun to surf heats again. I love competing and I’m really excited about the points on offer, as well as a lot of talented girls here so it’s not going to be easy.”
Coral Schuster - Photo © WSL / John Ferguson

Coral Schuster (USA) surfing her Round 2 heat at the Florida Pro QS 3,000 on Tuesday, January 15, 2018. PHOTO: © WSL/ John Ferguson

Also advancing, Coral Schuster (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) won her Round 1 Heat 11 bout and Rachel Presti's (Melbourne Beach, Fla.) buzzer-beater earned her a spot into Round 3 to represent for their hometown support groups.
Event organizers will convene tomorrow morning and make a 7:30 a.m. EST call for a possible 8:00 a.m. EST start to finish Round 2 of the women before moving into men’s Round 1 action.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com
The Florida Pro Women's QS 3,000 and Men's QS 1,500 will run in the best conditions from January 14 - 20 at Sebastian Inlet, Florida.
Women's Florida Pro QS 3,000 Round 1 Results: Heat 1: Sophie McCulloch (AUS) 12.57, Eva Woodland (CRI) 7.94, Nagisa Tashiro (JPN) 7.60, Rosina Neuerer (DEU) 1.24 Heat 2: Tiare Thompson (USA) 9.33, Chiasa Maruyama (USA) 9.03, Nina Reynal (FRA) 6.17, Alexxa Elseewi (USA) 5.23 Heat 3: Kloee Openshaw (USA) 6.00, Rubiana Brownell (CRI) 5.64, Anastasia Ashley (USA) 5.57, Nakia Fleuren (AUS) 2.56 Heat 4: Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN) 8.40, Serena Nava (USA) 6.60, Charlotte Lange (USA) 4.96 Heat 5: Olivia Pessanha (USA) 8.60, Molly Kirk (USA) 5.00, Maddy Malizia (RUS) 4.83, Abigail Dixon (USA) 1.44 Heat 6: Kaleigh Gilchrist (USA) 10.17, Makena Burke (USA) 5.13, Paulina Summers (CRI) 6.83, Brittany Penaroza (HAW) 11.04 Heat 7: Rachel Wilson (USA) 6.27, Brooke Young (USA) 6.17, Taylor Green (USA) 5.37, Natsuki Suda (JPN) 2.53 Heat 8: Melania Diaz (CNI) 13.10, Cassidy McClain (USA) 5.40, Emily Currie (GBR) 5.00 Heat 9: Neis Lartigue (FRA) 15.26, Brooke Daigneault (USA) 5.50, Maile Davis (USA) 3.10 Heat 10: Eveline Hooft (NDL) 12.00, Kayla Durden (USA) 4.10, Sarah Abbott (USA) 2.83, Morgan Iglay (USA) 0.83 Heat 11: Coral Schuster (USA) 10.13, Uhaina Joly (FRA) 5.46, Izzi Gomez (USA) 4.80, Sophie Falzone (USA) 1.60 Heat 12: Julie Nishimoto (JPN) 10.66, Maddie Garlough (USA) 8.33 Audrey Presti (DEU) 3.67, Jasmine Gailey (USA) 2.57
Women's Florida Pro QS 3,000 Round 2 (H1-8) Results: Heat 1: Leilani McGonagle (CRI) 11.27, Marion Philippe (PYF) 4.43, Autumn Hays (USA) 3.43, Eva Woodland (CRI) 1.84 Heat 2: Sophie McCulloch (AUS) 12.33, Josefina Ane (ARG) 9.63, Chiasa Maruyama (USA) 3.43, Melanie Giunta (PER) 1.84 Heat 3: Tiare Thompson (USA) 7.70, Zoe McDougall (HAW) 6.93, Vahine Fierro (PYF) 6.34, Kloee Openshaw (USA) 1.80 Heat 4: Chelsea Tuach (BRB) 13.10, Chelsea Roett (BRB) 6.50, Rubiana Brownell (CRI) 5.40, Juliette Lacome (FRA) 4.37 Heat 5: Zoe Benedetto (USA) 11.04, Nao Omura (JPN) 7.10, Pauline Ado (FRA) 5.20, Serena Nava (USA) 3.94 Heat 6: Cannelle Bulard (FRA) 15.66, Olivia Pessanha (USA) 9.30, Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN) 8.90, Dominica Barona (ECU) 6.83 Heat 7: Tia Blanco (PRI) 9.57, Rachel Presti (DEU) 8.00, Brittany Penaroza (HAW) 5.44, Molly Kirk (USA) 4.14 Heat 8: Caroline Marks (USA) 14.90, Carol Henrique (PRT) 9.30, Kaleigh Gilchrist (USA) 4.07, Nadia Erostarbe (EUK) 3.00
Remaining Women’s Florida Pro QS 3,000 Round 2 (H9-16) Matchups: Heat 9: Brisa Hennessy (HAW), Emily Nishimoto (JPN), Keala Tomoda-Bannert (HAW), Brooke Young (USA) Heat 10: Minori Kawai (JPN), Meah Collins (USA), Rachel Wilson (USA), Melanie Suarez-Diaz (CNI) Heat 11: Summer Macedo (HAW), Camilla Kemp (PRT), Cassidy McClain (USA), Neis Lartigue (FRA) Heat 12: Kirra Pinkerton (USA), Sara Wakita (JPN), Ava McGowan (USA), Brooke Daigneault (USA) Heat 13: India Robinson (AUS), Maud Le Car (FRA), Havanna Cabrero (PRI), Kayla Durden (USA) Heat 14: Kobie Enright (AUS), Leticia Canales Bilbao (ESP), Eveline Hooft (NDL), Uhaina Joly (FRA) Heat 15: Alyssa Spencer (USA), Samantha Sibley (USA), Julie Nishimoto (JPN) Heat 16: Mahina Maeda (JPN), Brianna Cope (HAW), Freya Prumm (AUS), Maddie Garlough (USA)
About the WSL The World Surf League (WSL) is dedicated to celebrating the world's best surfing on the world's best waves through a variety of best-in-class audience platforms. The organization, headquartered in Santa Monica, is a global sport with regional offices in Australasia, Africa, North America, South America, Hawaii, Japan and Europe.
The WSL has been championing the world's best surfing since 1976, annually running more than 180 global events across the Men's and Women's Championship Tours, the Big Wave Tour, Qualifying Series, Junior and Longboard Championships, as well as the WSL Big Wave Awards. The League possesses a deep appreciation for the sport's rich heritage while promoting progression, innovation and performance at the highest levels, and in doing so crowns the undisputed Men’s and Women’s World Champions across all tours.
Showcasing the world's best surfing on its digital platform at WorldSurfLeague.com, the WSL has a passionate global fan base with millions tuning in to see world-class athletes like Kelly Slater, Stephanie Gilmore, Tyler Wright, John Florence, Lakey Peterson, Paige Alms, Kai Lenny, Taylor Jensen, Honolua Blomfield, Carissa Moore, Gabriel Medina, Courtney Conlogue and more battle on the most dynamic field of play of any global sport.
For more information, please visit WorldSurfLeague.com