Every year we dedicate an issue to the youth, and send a pack of the best 14 year old’s in the world on the biggest trip of their (young) careers. And every time, Jimmicane — our staff Grom Games photographer — comes back not just singing, but screaming their praises. Last year, after returning from Samoa with a group that included Stevie Pittman, Jimmy sent an email to Hurley's Pat O'Connell to let him know the next Dane Reynolds was on his team. Stevie would go on to win a US title at Lowers, place first in Surfer Mag's Hot 100 (in Boys) and, most recently, go to Costa Rica with Filipe Toledo to film for Spinning at the Speed of Now, the profile film we're making on Filipe. The next Dane? Shit. Stevie might be bigger.
It's this sense of possibility that keeps us inspired by youth. The unknown. The potential. And they know it, too. They run hot. Always moving. Speaking their minds. Unashamed. Talented and naïve and invincible. Unafraid of failure. That's what we love, what inspires us "adults" to explore new things. The kids aren't jaded. They've never been hurt. Their future is today and tomorrow and "real life?" Please. That's a lifetime away. That unfiltered optimism is contagious.
Take Filipe, for example. Earlier this year we met with a then 19-year-old Fil to pitch our movie project. We told him we thought this was a good year to collaborate on a film because, we figured, he's still a few years from a proper world title campaign. No need to take the CT too serious. Not yet. He just looked at us and laughed. "I'm going for the title this year," he said, like we were crazy to think otherwise. "But I still wanna do the movie."
Overzealous? Apparently not. He's currently sitting in the Top 5 with a legitimate shot to win it all this year, and had no problem filming a full-length feature in five short months. As Beau Flemister writes in his profile on Filipe on Pg. 52, "They say there are two types of people on earth: Those who want enough, and those who want it all. Most of us fall into the respectable former category. But Filipe? Filipe gallops toward sections like a rabid, bloodthirsty stallion and leaps toward the heavens every time. Rash, like youth. Ever-hopeful, like youth. Stupid, like youth. With little direction but forward."
For Filipe enough is certainly not enough, and the same can be said for Russell Bierke and Leroy Bellett, the teenage duo that tag-teamed the tube in Australia in pursuit of this months cover. Leroy is 16. Russ, 18. And they nailed one of the best surf photos of all time. Why? Because they weren't afraid to fail. And they weren't afraid to fall, either — not even inside the depths of an 8-foot slab in a few inches of water.
And OK, so maybe some of 'em have been hurt. Leroy's gone to the hospital (twice). He's hit the reef. Hit his face. Suffered stitches and a torn MCL. But every time, he pulls himself right back together and tows straight back into the pit.
Because failure? Like Filipe and so many other eager teens, Leroy's never heard of it.
— Zander Morton