Locals have great chance at Gromfest
By ADRIAN MILLER
WORLD champion surfer Garret Parkes might be the favourite for the Rusty Gromfest but don't think he's the only local in with a shot this weekend.
The 12th annual Rusty Gromfest hits the water this morning with the Under-16 boys first to take to the waves, and while Parkes leads the charge, the rest of the field is packed full of local hopes.
Lennox's Niki Hoskin, who won the Under-14 division at the Billabong Occy's Grom Comp on the Gold Coast yesterday, is the second seed in the Under-14 boys division, Stephanie Single (Lennox) is seeded fourth in the Under-12 girls, while Soli Bailey (Suffolk Park) heads the field in the Under-12 boys.
While they are the most likely, contest director Max Perrot said it was almost impossible to pick a winner in any division this year, with world, national and State title holders littering the field of 350-odd surfers.
"This is the strongest field we've seen and hopefully it will be the best surfing we've seen," he said.
"The talent is very strong in all divisions and apart from Garret and Laura Enever (who finished second in the world at Under-18 level at the ISA World Junior Surfing Titles in Portugal), I wouldn't like to pick who's going to win in any division because it's anyone's game."
Parkes is No 1 seed in the Under-16 division and the obvious best hope for the locals after winning the Billabong Occy's Grom Comp on the Gold Coast yesterday.
"The surf's been pretty average up here at the moment and the comp has been pretty tough because there are a lot of good surfers but I've been happy with the way I've been surfing," he said.
Parkes, who won the Gromfest Under-14 division in 2005, said he couldn't wait to hit the water at Lennox.
"I'm looking forward to Gromfest and pretty excited about it because it's always a fun comp to do," he said. "It's always good to win because it's a big stepping stone to bigger things."
Parkes knows he won't have it all his own way, with the likes of fellow Australian representatives Todd Rosewall (Victoria), James Woods (Coolangatta) and Davey Cathels (Narrabeen) and No 4 seed Matt Baldock (Margaret River) in the field.
"There's probably a bit more pressure on me but I've only won one major comp so I still have to prove myself," Parkes said.
"Davey, Dean Bowen (Gerroa) and Todd are probably my main rivals but I've surfed against them heaps and we're all good mates so while it's pretty serious it's pretty fun at the same time."
Hoskin said he was looking to improve on his third place finish at last year's Gromfest.
"Last year was my best result in Gromfest so I'm hoping to make the finals this year," he said.
"It would be really good to win this year because it will give me a lot of confidence going up against such a wide range of surfers."
Lyla Wright (Lennox Head), who won the All Girls Surf Showdown Open B division at her home break last month, might not be seeded in the Under-16 division, but she has the potential to surprise her more fancied rivals.
"The competition keeps getting harder and harder every year so I'm not sure how I'll go, but I've been happy with the way I've been surfing," she said. "We're very lucky to have one of these main comps at our home break.
"I don't know if it gives us too much of an advantage but it gives us a lot more confidence because we've been out there in whatever conditions and if it's a bit smaller we tend to know where the banks are."
That local knowledge could prove vital with wave heights peaking around the three-foot mark predicted throughout the weekend.
The 12th annual Rusty Gromfest begins today and runs until Monday.
The Under-16 and Under-14 boys first-round heats will run today, with the remaining first-round heats held tomorrow. The event is mobile throughout the Ballina Shire and organisers will make a decision where to hold the contest by 7am each day.
Check the board at the Lennox Head newsagency to see where the day's heats will be held.
THE four top seeds in each division:
Under-16s boys: Garret Parkes (Byron Bay), Todd Rosewall (VIC), Davey Cathels (Narrabeen), Matt Baldock (Margaret River)
Under-16s girls: Laura Enever (Narrabeen), Kirby Wright (Culburra Beach), Darci Egan (Jan Juc), Dimity Stoyle (Maroochydore)
Under-14s boys: Dylan Cummings (Noraville), Niki Hoskin (Lennox), Enrique Ariitu (Tahiti), Ezra Norris (Sunshine Beach)
Under-14s girls: Tyler Wright (Culburra Beach), Rosa Thompson (Auckland), Nikki Van Dijk (Cowes), Amiya Doyle (Coolangatta)
Under-12s boys: Soli Bailey (Suffolk Park), Eli Steele (Shelly Beach), Keoni Yan (Tahiti), Tom McGregor (Currimundi)
Under-12s girls: Charlie Roche (Maroochydore), Sarah Mason (Tugun), Renee Heazlewood (Moffat Beach), Stephanie Single (Lennox).