April 8, 2019 / 7:21 AM / 15 days ago

Surfing-US teen Marks first to benefit from WSL equal prize money drive

WELLINGTON, April 8 (Reuters) - American teenager Caroline Marks became the first woman to earn the same prize money as the men's champion at a World Surf League event on Monday after she won her maiden title at the season-opener on Australia's Gold Coast.

The 17-year-old pocketed $100,000 after she scored 13.83 to beat three-times world champion Carissa Moore, who could only muster 11.67 points in her best two-wave total in tricky conditions at Duranbah Beach in Queensland.

Surfing has been included for the first time at next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo and the WSL said last September they would introduce equal prize money this year and also ramp up their marketing of the women's events and athletes.

Marks, who also beat seven-times world champion Stephanie Gilmore in the quarter-finals, said she was blown away by her success.

"I'm speechless," she told the WSL website (worldsurfleague.com). "It's incredible to be a part of this sport.

"Carissa has always been my hero and she still is. To have my first win over her is incredible."

In the men's event, Brazil's Italo Ferreira produced a brilliant late ride to score 7.07 points on his 10th wave and end with a combined score of 12.57. He finished ahead of American Kolohe Andino, who tallied 12.43 points.

"I tried to catch a lot of waves ... knew it was my last chance, thought 'let's do it, one shot' then boom," said Ferreira, who completed a clean 360 degree spin on the wave.

"It's good to push this energy and that's what I did."

The next stop on the tour is at Bell's Beach, south of Melbourne, next week.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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