At some point during their adolescence, Kelly Slater and Rob Machado probably wailed on each other in a heated game of Sting-Pong. And a pubescent Mick Fanning and Joel Parko probably once grappled in the sand until someone said "uncle" (actually, that might have happened the last time the boys "got on the piss"). As entertaining as these early battles probably were, we never got to witness any of them because they never had an event like Grom Games in their day. Thank god this generation does.
As you read this, four of the world's best 14-year-old surfers are going at it like wild wolf pups for SURFING's 2015 Grom Games, held at luxurious Kandui Villas in the Mentawai Islands (the groms are still pinching themselves — and each other). In between the spinning tubes and perfect ramp sections, Noah Beschen (North Shore, Oahu), Wyatt Mchale (North Shore, Oahu), Mateus Herdy (Florianopolis, Brazil) and Nick Marshall (Cardiff, California) are competing in a series of challenges testing their skill, their wits and their mettle.
Today I watched Noah do his best Carl Lewis and leap nearly 14 feet in the long jump competition. I watched Nick race his kayak straight into the Kandui dock pilings, nearly capsizing, and soldier on to beat his competitors to the finish line and celebrate by inhaling three Kit-Kat bars. The boys are climbing coconut trees, devouring a 7-11's worth of soda and candy, and fist pumping and hip shaking on the bow of our boat to La Bouche's "Be My Lover" at max volume while a lineup of confused surfers looks on. As official 2015 Grom Games officiator Tanner Gudauskas told me yesterday:
"These kids are two to three years away from being on the verge of big stuff. They're already well on their way and who knows how gnarly it's going to be. So it's rad that we get to come on this trip at this moment in their lives where they don't even realize how good they are and they can still be kids."
Oh, and the surfing has been pretty good too: full rotation stales, 105-pound laybacks and everything in between. All by four kids who haven't started high school but have a sharper air game than half the guys on the CT.
We still have three days remaining at Kandui Villas and enough Grom Games challenges to fill a full season of Survivor. Best Air, Best Tube, Best Power Turn and a potential cover shot are all still up for grabs, and there's a man-sized swell on the horizon. Will the groms charge big Kandui? Who will be crowned the 2015 Grom Games winner? Stay tuned and ten years from now you can tell your kids you were watching Grom Games when the world champ was 14 and chugged six cans of Sprite and laughed so hard he peed his shorts.