Remember being 12 years old and playing Little League baseball? More often than not, you played for a team named after a random MLB team that wasn’t your favorite. Games were held at the local field in town behind a strip mall. Your coach was a teammate’s dad.
Now imagine being in that same scenario except you’re traveling around the world learning from your baseball idol — sharpening your curveball with Clayton Kershaw, jacking home runs with Aaron Judge.
That’s what it’s like for surfing groms.
Short for grommet, a grom is a young surfer, usually under 16 years old. Groms aren’t only found in surfing; they have expanded to other extreme sports, including skateboarding and snowboarding, in recent years. These kids — barely teenagers — are able to have experiences others can only dream of.
“Being able to travel away from their parents shows what kind of person these kids are without mom, dad and big brother around,” said Matt Bemrose, Volcom Global Surf Team Manager. “If you’re a pro surfer you have to travel the world constantly, dealing with different places, people, customs and cultures. It isn’t just about bettering yourself as a surfer, but bettering yourself as a person, too.”
Volcom rented a house in Bali, Indonesia, for the month of July. Eight surfers under the age of 16 spent two weeks there learning about the local culture, the island’s different breaks and themselves. The groms learned just as much about manners and respect — like not leaving dirty dishes on the table and saying “please” and “thank you” — as they did about how to get barreled on a shallow left.
“Being a grom with Volcom is really fun,” said Jarvis Earle, 12, of Sydney, Australia. “It’s good to see all the older guys so you can learn from them, see what they do and get better. It’s fun to hang out with all the other kids and surf, too.”
Volcom veteran Nate Tyler was 16 when he went on his first pro surfing trip. He went to Pascuales, Mexico, with four surfers he idolized. Now, he’s one of the surfers this generation of groms is looking up to.
“On this level, I don’t think I ever got an opportunity like they’re getting,” Tyler, 33, said. “I would get some opportunities and just run with them. You try to be respectful but also pepper the older guys with questions. I can’t say I’m exactly their hero, but they’re stoked to surf with me and that’s just the coolest thing ever.”
The groms were taken to different reefs and swells around Bali by local pro Muklis Anwar to test their skills. The variety in reefs and breaks is part of what makes Bali an ideal surfing destination. Waves can be polar opposites a few miles away from one another let alone on the other side of the island.
“Having all the kids in Bali is such a good experience for them,” Anwar said. “After this trip they will have more knowledge about surfing and understand things like currents better. This is the sickest thing ever; I want to be a kid again not worrying about anything and just surfing. These kids are super lucky; they’re in Bali.”
For Nolan Rodgers, 15, of San Clemente, Calif., the trip to Bali held extra special meaning because his younger brother, Hayden, 11, was along for the ride.
“Surfing with him and our friends here is really great because it’s like we get to have similar experiences like we have at home, but get to experience a different culture together,” Nolan said. “Bali is probably one of the most influential and biggest places in surfing for kids and pros. Coming here for the first time was definitely an amazing experience in terms of catching waves I’ve dreamed about and surfing with people I really look up to.”
Hayden Rodgers, 11 (San Clemente, Calif.) — “Being a grom with Volcom is cool because they do a lot of stuff for us and they take us on trips like how we’re in Bali. They have a lot of people who show us around and make us feel comfortable. It’s cool surfing with my brother because we can talk to each other about our waves and everything.”
Kobi Clements, 12 (Sydney, Australia) — “It’s pretty cool because we’re pushing each other and training to get better.”
Keanu Taylor, 12 (Maui, Hawaii) — “This is my first time in Bali. It’s been super fun; waves are fiery. This is the best experience I’ve had yet, surfing perfect waves with all my friends, and meeting new people.”
Santiago Hart, 14 (Santa Cruz, Calif.) — “Volcom’s sick. There are so many insane coaches and you get so much experience from these guys. It’s just rad being able to learn from them.”
Travel and accommodation in Bali provided by Volcom.