I’m lying down with my eyes closed, trying to rest between sessions, but I can't rest because I’m with six 14 year olds, and 14 year olds don’t rest.
Thump! Thump-thump! Thump!…Plunk.
“Ohhhhh!” they all roar.
I open my eyes and see all six around a breakfast table — hair still wet from a session at Uluwatu — flipping their water bottles in the air and trying to land them upright. Alan Cleland Jr. just did it — cap-side down. This energizes the group and the thumps become more frequent. Thump-thump-thump! It doesn't matter that there's no point and no prize to this activity, they’re competing, and that’s what they love to do. That’s what they’re here to do.
These six are the invitees of the fourth annual Grom Games, a 10-day event (this year in Bali) that pits the world’s best 14-year-old surfers against each other in pursuit of the coveted title of Grom Games Champion. To win, they chase points in the water (best barrel/turn/air, best GoPro edit) and through events on land that aren’t much more sophisticated than flipping water bottles (coconut toss, Sprite chug, breath holding, foot race, etc). Make sense? Good. Now, let’s meet the competitors.
Noah Hill / @noah_hill_surfer
From Venice Beach, CA via Maui, this goofyfoot’s game is as thick as the coat of sunscreen on his face. (Thick.) He’s confident beyond his years and proves that when you stomp full rotators and don’t pay mind to the opinions of others, you can rock pink Crocs and people will still be friends with you.
Caroline Marks / @caroline_markss
Hello, first ever-female invitee. Hello, most talked about surfer in the water. Hello — fine, I'll just say it — future world champ. Caroline Marks of Melbourne Beach, FL (now residing in San Clemente, CA) so obviously belongs here that when her peers watch her surf it's always, "That was so sick!" and never "That was so sick…for a girl." The fact that she's sweet and helpful on land is icing on the cake.
Eduardo Motta / @mottinhaoficial
Haven’t heard of him? You will soon. A lot. While we haven’t seen him in anything overhead high, the kid from Guarujá, Brazil doesn’t seem to have a hole in his surfing. And to show up solo, not speaking English, and integrate with the group suggests a grit that'll serve him well in his career.
Kade Matson / @kadematson
The kid from San Clemente is 5’11" now but will surely be 6’0" by the time we leave. With a sturdy stance and sound mechanics, his surfing has grown along with his height. And while his singing voice is pitch imperfect, he belts Taylor Swift with the fire of a thousand suns.
Tommy Coleman / @tommybooboo1
Pint-sized politeness from Vero Beach, Florida. Throws tail like a happy dog and wears tape on his nips to combat rashing. Claims his 5’5″ will be perfect for him in a few months, when he grows into it. He's got a bit of a tummy ache at the moment so #prayfortommy.
Alan Cleland Jr. / @alclelandjrsurf
Wielding two passports (Mexico and USA) and a style that has bursts of Bruce Irons and Andrew Doheny, Al is the type of kid waits out the back for the best waves while everyone else is frothing on scraps on the inside. Guess that's a product of living and learning to surf in Pascuales, Mexico. He's one of the many pleasant surprises of this trip, and a likely contender for the best tube and best turn categories.
Stay tuned to @surfingmagazine’s Instagram and Snapchat as we bring you live updates from Bali.