"I can't remember the last time we had this much swell for this event. The kids are loving it," said T&C Surf founder Craig Sugihara. "We've been doing this event for a long time, and man, just look at the waves out there. They're perfect." Sugihara has a point: a quick glance out to the horizon at Waikiki reveals a sea of absolute perfection. It's not yet summer, but one of the best swells in recent memory is pummeling Queens. And as Sugihara has alluded, the kids are absolutely loving it.
For 16 years, T&C Surf has been hosting their annual Grom Contest at Queens, Waikiki. The event is different from the host of other summertime contests in Honolulu in the fact that they prohibit contestants who have entered an NSSA, HASA, or any other organized competitive surfing branch from entering the event. Simply put, this is a contest for regular groms without stickers on their boards.
"I love this contest. You'll never see a group of groms more stoked than the ones at this event," said Kekoa Bacalso, who was volunteering at the event. "There's no other event like this and I hope they run it for another few decades."
Amid the sea of perfect swell and the throngs of proud parents, the T&C Grom Contest speaks to a bigger dynamic in surfing. In an era when stickers are plastered on the boards of 10-year-olds who can complete a roundhouse, holding an event that's specifically geared to groms who aren't competing in the NSSA is important to keeping the next generation of young surfers grounded.
The two-day event runs through a variety of divisions ranging from father-daughter tandem heats to shortboards. At the end of the contest, with dozens upon dozens of groms gathered underneath the scaffolding, event officials dealt out a warehouse full of prizes. Groms swarmed and smiles beamed.
"This is the greatest thing we do. It's our way of giving back," added Sugihara. “This is the next generation and we're giving back to the kids that aren't already doing contests. We look forward to doing this event all year and couldn't be happier to host it."