Surf fails to flatten Gromfest
By Luke Prendergast
THE SURF was up and the grommets were everywhere at the North Wall at Ballina on Saturday.
It is just a shame the same could not be said for Friday or Sunday, with flat conditions disappointing hundreds of eager young surfers and their supporters.
The occasion was the 12th annual Gromfest, the biggest junior amateur surfing competition in Australia.
Scheduled for Lennox Head, flat conditions forced the postponement of competition on Friday and its relocation to Ballina's North Wall on Saturday.
There, beautiful two-foot waves greeted competitors and allowed for a full day's surfing in front of hundreds of spectators.
However, flat conditions yesterday again forced the competition to be postponed. It is scheduled to continue today and conclude tomorrow.
More than 340 competitors, aged between eight and 16, came from all over Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and even Peru to compete for their respective Gromfest age group titles, titles many regard as even more prestigious than the Australian Amateur titles.
One person who certainly thinks that way is Max Perrot, the contest director.
"It is the big one to win; this is it," he said. "It isn't the Australian Amateur titles, but this is actually a bigger field than the Australian Amateur titles."
Fellow event director Damon Hayes, from sponsor Rusty, agreed.
"For a lot of these surfers it is their first competition experience," he said.
"It's a first contest that they can get in there and enjoy. If they win, it's a bonus, but it's just an enjoyable way to have their first contest."
Mr Hayes said the event was also enjoyable for sponsors such as Rusty, which was so often associated with the more cut-throat world of professional surfing.
"We're putting something back into grassroots surfing," he said.
"We're helping the youth and helping them to establish their careers."
One of those grommets hoping to carve out a career in the waves, as opposed to just carving out waves, is Luke Chandler, of Lennox Head.
The 14-year-old was eliminated after finishing third in his heat on Saturday, but his enthusiasm for the event was undiminished.
"This is my third time I've been in Gromfest," he said. "It was good, but a lull came through while I was out there. "It's a heaps good idea. You meet heaps of new people. I'll definitely be back next year."
Hopefully, for organisers, the conditions are more conducive today and tomorrow.
Gromfest has been identified as the single-biggest weekend of the year for Lennox Head.