Two San Clemente surfers stand at the pinnacle of professional surfing after a historic day at WSL Finals
With a hurricane swell pouring through at Lower Trestles, San Clemente residents Caroline Marks and Filipe Toledo won the Rip Curl WSL Finals and claimed the 2023 world surfing titles on Saturday, Sept. 9.
For 21-year-old Marks, who hails from Florida but now lives a stone’s throw from Trestles, this was her first world title. And for Toledo, who grew up in Brazil, this was his second consecutive world title.
“It’s just so inspiring to have my name up on that list,” Marks said from the winner’s podium. “This has just been a goal of mine. World champion, it’s crazy. I went through a weird one last year, and I was doubting myself. This just feels so good. I really don’t know what to say; I’ve been really emotional this year. This feels like a lot of emotion.”
Facing five-time world champ Carissa Moore in the day’s best-of-three Championship Match, Marks leaned into a lethal backhand attack to sweep the Hawaiian in two straight heats.
In an interesting twist of fate, Marks faced Moore as a wild card at Lowers in her first-ever Championship Tour event in 2015. Eight years later, and it’s now Marks who stands as the No. 1 surfer in the world. For the effort, Marks also solidified her spot on the 2024 U.S. Olympic surf team.
“Big ups to Carissa,” Marks said. “She’s been a massive inspiration to me growing up my whole life. She’s had a stellar year, and it was kinda a dream of mine to be in the Final with her. I just had a great board, and I have a lot of good family and friends here. I really feel the support, and that goes a long way, so I was just in my flow today. Just had a special day with the ocean, so, wow, it feels so good.”
On the men’s side of the draw, the hometown crowd came out in force to support San Clemente’s Griffin Colapinto. However, he was upended by resurgent Aussie Ethan Ewing, who just a month earlier had suffered a broken back while training in Tahiti.
Ewing’s win over Colapinto set up a Championship Match against Toledo, who came into the event as the No. 1 seed. Much like last year, Toledo took his game to another level and was virtually unstoppable.
“It’s so hard to put into words what it took for me to be here right now,” Toledo said afterward. “So much sacrifice. A lot of sacrifice, to be honest. … This is a dream come true. I don’t think there’s ever been a Brazilian that won back-to-back. We like to make history. I’m super thankful to God. He blessed me all the way here. It was not easy.”
Gracious and humble in defeat, Colapinto took his WSL Finals experience in stride.
“Yesterday didn’t pan to be the fairy-tale story that we were pushing to create, but, hey, that’s life,” Colapinto shared on Instagram on Sunday, Sept. 10. “Most of the time our dreams come true when we least expect it.”
“I still had the best season of my career finishing 3rd in the world and got room for improvement,” he continued. “Absolutely in love with this journey and getting my life lessons from it. To anyone out there that has a dream, go after it! Your journey to that dream will teach you everything you need to know.”
For the past three years, the Rip Curl WSL Finals has brought the ultimate day in competitive surfing to San Clemente, and every year the waves and the fans have helped make history.
The original arrangement between Rip Curl and the WSL was for three years, and while it’s unclear what the future holds, there’s a lot to celebrate for now.
Culminating with the WSL Finals, the San Clemente surf scene is bursting with opportunity and optimism at the moment.
With many local surfers on pace to qualify for the 2024 Championship Tour, San Clemente Mayor Chris Duncan and the city hosted a parade along Avenida Del Mar on Monday, Sept. 11, to celebrate all of the recent accomplishments with the community.
On Thursday, Sept. 14, several of the surfers will also be honored at the San Clemente City Council meeting. The ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. at City Hall. I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again, San Clemente is undoubtedly the hotbed of surf talent in America today.
Two local surfers etching their names on the world title trophies? It doesn’t get much better than that.
Congrats to Marks, Toledo and all the WSL Finals surfers who poured their heart and soul into another amazing year of chasing waves and points around the world.