All eyes on the future

The youngest surfer to qualify for the world championship tour, USA Surfing member Caroline Marks discusses the important role preventative eye care plays in her sport—and her future in general—as someone who is regularly exposed to the elements.
Caroline Marks

“My favorite thing in the world is surfing with my brothers … doing what I love most with the people I love most.” That’s how Caroline Marks—19-year-old pro surfer and Tokyo-bound athlete—describes the sport that’s elevated her to an international stage. To her, surfing is as much a family bonding experience as it is a career path, which is why she takes the eye-health risks of her sport so seriously.

Caroline Marks, girls Under 16 division surfing
Caroline Marks with her father, Darren (left) and coach, CT Taylor (right), after winning the Girls Under 16 division of the 2016 USA Surfing Championships.

As her father, Darren Marks, explains, “Caroline’s brother, Luke, is a commercial fisherman, and he experienced eye difficulties at a young age from being on the ocean and the reflection from the sun.”

In fact, Luke suffers from a pterygium— also commonly known as “surfer’s eye”—which is a growth on the cornea caused by over exposure to UV light. Being so close with her brother and witnessing his eye-health struggles firsthand has reinforced the importance of prevention and regular in-person exams to Caroline. It’s also been the impetus for her to use her platform to speak out to other surfers and young people in general—who may not even be aware of the eye health risks associated with spending a lot of time in the sun.

“Something as simple as wearing sunglasses and going to get your eyes checked, in person, once a year—it’s huge.” -Caroline Marks

“I’m in the sun all the time and I’m always on my phone, and that obviously isn’t great for your eyes. I don’t think there are many people my age thinking about it. But they should,” says Caroline.

While Caroline’s eye health is critical to her performance as a pro surfer, she believes prevention is important for everyone—particularly her peers who shrug off in-person care because they don’t currently suffer from eye-related problems. “We’re all young and healthy, but now’s the time to prevent having any issues in the future. That’s the message I want to get out.”

Caroline’s doctor, Randy Griffin, O.D., echoes her message of the importance of preventative care. “The most important, and simple, means of achieving optimal eye health is by making an appointment with an optometrist for an in-person comprehensive eye exam once a year.”

“The most important, and simple, means of achieving optimal eye health is by making an appointment with an optometrist for an in-person comprehensive eye exam once a year.” -Dr. Randy Griffin

Practicing in sunny San Clemente, California, with a number of pro and casual athletes as patients, Dr. Griffin continues, “As we transition to more outdoor activities, sunglasses provide the needed protection against UV light, which can lead to many sight threatening problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. There’s also a condition called pterygium that causes tissue to grow on the eyeball and can affect anyone who spends a lot of time in the sun without protection—even when it’s overcast. It’s also important to wear proper safety eye protection for certain sports activities.”

Randy Griffin, O.D.

Randy Griffin, O.D.

Second-generation optometrist, Randy Griffin, OD, practices at Griffin Optometric Group alongside his two brothers. For Dr. Griffin, optometry is a family tradition that he is proud to continue, having seen many of his patients—and their children—for years. Living and practicing in the sunny, beach community of San Clemente, California, Dr. Griffin is especially passionate about the importance of preventative care as it relates to sports and outdoor activities, which is something he tries to impart to all his patients, from pro-surfers to everyday sun-lovers. Find an AOA doctor of optometry near you.

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