Under the hot Waikiki sun, hundreds of pint-sized groms swarmed the beach at Queens for the 14th annual Town & Country Gromfest. For more than a decade, this contest has been a staple in Hawaii and has acted as a harbinger for summer. With the iconic statue of Duke Kahanamoku standing vigil over the event, families gathered together at the shore as groms beamed smiles and anxiously awaited the opening horn of the long-fabled two-day event.
Out towards the glimmering sea, the lineup couldn't have been on better behavior as 2- to 3-foot rights swayed down the reef at Queens. In standard fashion, there were an array of divisions in the contest that reinforced the core message of the Gromfest: above all, this contest is about having fun.
“The grom event is an annual highlight for me,” said Town & Country founder and Hawaiian surfing legend Craig Sugihara. “This year we celebrate 40 years in business. While the ride has not always been smooth, something that never gets old for me is seeing the pure stoke on the face of the kids in the water. I shared this love with my sons and grandchildren and feel privileged to touch many more keiki through our 14th Annual Grom Contest. Baby Queen’s offers an excellent place to introduce the kids to contest surfing. Through the years it is my love for the ocean, stoke for surfing, and the desire to share the Aloha that has guided us. I hope the kids experience all of this and share it with others as they grow.”
As the event progressed into the finals, the surf kicked up a notch and saw some of Hawaii's budding talent display a level of surfing that was years beyond their age. From what we saw, today's 8-year-olds will be a major force in the scene within the next decade, but for now, they're more concerned with trying to spray their friends. And that's the way it should be.
For Town & Country’s own Michelle Cabalse, seeing the kids in action at the gromfest rekindles her stoke in the sport.
“My favorite part is just being with kids in the water. Their mind is in such a different place and that completely changes the feeling out there,” said Cabalse. “One year I got in the water before the contest with all the kids, just chilling’ goofing around, laughing and then I started talking story with one of the kids. He asked me, ‘So what, Aunty, what division are you surfing in? I can cheer for you.’ Those kinds of thing happen only at an event like this, so I have tons of great memories like that that I just treasure.”
With the contest winding down, the groms and families congregated under the scaffoliding that skirts the busy Waikiki streets for the award’s ceremony. Shrouded in oversized contest T-shirts and clutching an array of swag, the groms waited as the announcer raffled off a few more prizes and awarded the finalists their trophies. As has become standard fashion for the event, smiles abounded as families packed up a weekend's worth of surf memories that will last a lifetime--well, at least until they do it all over again next year.