Revisit: The SW Grom Bash

Atomic wedgies and whip spins!

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The Australian Brushturkey, aka: boiled cranium horribilus. A more unfortunate looking idiot you will struggle to find. Populating the entire NSW East Coast these Satan’s Chooks have been the subject of numerous scientific studies all of which have concluded their existence is for one reason only… to strewn the contents of any bag left unguarded over the widest possible square mileage before making off with your car keys to bury in their giant rubbish heap bush nests ruining what would have otherwise been a perfectly pleasant day at the beach. Basically, they’re fun wreckers and to make matters worse, they don’t even taste that good. They’re useless clowns the lot of them. But what have these tuck shop scabs of the bird world got to do with the SW Grombash? Maybe everything… but also possibly nothing.

Surfing World has celebrated grommies since the first issue ran off the printing press in 1962 featuring within its pages a shot of 16-year-old Robert “Gnat” Young trimming the curlers at Collaroy Point. In the 54 years since, shoving platinum-headed, freckle-faced, pie-woofing, all-day-wettie-wearers into beaten up old wagons and taking ’em up and down the coast has been somewhat a rite of passage. Away from home and parents for the first time the kids would run riot, turning the Cocky Little Bastards dial to eleven and surfing ’til their skin would literally peel off their bodies. From Nat to Wayne, Carroll to Cheyne, Barton and Hardman to Egan and Hoy, to Rasta, Parko, Mick and Dingo… and more recently to guys like Ace Buchan and Mitchy Coleborn… they all cut their milky travel teeth as knee high participants of the classic SW road trips… a ritual that would later become known as The SW Grombash. And though we’ve had a few years off carting kids around to find waves, we recently decided to pack the Twisties and cans of Pasito, warm up our crowpeck and titty twister techniques and get the good ol Grombash wagon back on the highway.

Not surprisingly, with all the surf schools, HPCs, surf comps and other surf star breeding programs going on out there, the talent levels of Aussie groms is mad sick fully off the richter, ay. How to pick which groms to take proved to be an intense and involved process. Though not for us. Because we’re super lazy we palmed it all off on the pros to handle. During the Billabong Bloodlines Series (Occy’s Grom Comp, Taj’s Small Fries, Parko’s Grom Stomp, etc…) we asked the namesakes of each event to pick a guy who stood out to include on the trip because if anyone could spot upcoming talent surely it would be Occy, Taj and Parko – guys who had been on the road with SW and knew what the whippets would be in for.

Kehu Burn. (Dunbar)

By Bloodlines’s end they’d selected us four kids. They were… electrifying Sunny Coast grom Reef Hazelwood, fresh off the plane from his second place finish at the ISA World Games in California. Caleb Tancred, the Cenny Coast tube threading charger with a razor sharp rail game who might also be the only person in the world shorter than his mentor Glen Micro Hall. Then there was Kehu Butler, the wildcard Kiwi whose Haka at the world games was almost as impressive as his frontside full rotor. Finally there was West Oz grom Kael Walsh who sadly couldn’t get out of school to join the fun… fair enough… after all education is fully important for your brain an that… but we’ll be bringing you some Kael love in a future issue. To fill Walshy’s spare ticket we asked Dakota Walters to come along, a little dude with a frontside whip that’s equal parts AI and John John and Angourie’s next great hope for the future. As chaperone we brought along along Liam “Letty” Mortensen, a big turning, mondo air-busting man-grom from Avalon who talks in surf mag captions and regularly dances on beaches in his undies. He’d only just wrapped his junior career the previous year and as the only kid on our trip who could grow a moustache we hoped he’d act as head grom cop, keeping any potential trouble makers in line so that we wouldn’t have to. Of course there was the risk he’d lead them all down the garden path in a Lord of the Flies style coup against the oldies… but we threatened to delete his Tinder ap if there was any trouble and felt confident that was enough to keep him on the level.

After grabbing the groms from various pick up points we headed north. Our home for the next week would be a deluxe six berth RV parked in the trees at the SW Camp at Treachery. And when I say our home, I mean their home… the grommets. Hard to believe I know, but because the weather forecast was absolutely horrendous we put the groms in the water tight, heated, televisioned environs of the RV so that none of the little tackers got a sniffley nose while far far away from mammy and pappy. The rest of us – six adults in total – spent the first night huddled around a smouldering pile of wet wood under a tarp in the pouring rain laughing about how times had changed since we were hairless and how good kids have it these days. Except that there was no laughter, there was only the sight of Jeremy Walters (Dakoda’s dad) being blasted in the face by a tornado of sparks and whooshing fames when a sudden wind change ripped the fire into a frenzy in the exact direction of where he happened to be sitting. A moment later the wind stopped, the fire went out and the rain continued to pour down almost as if nothing had happened at all. “This is what it’s all about,” said Walt quietly. “Doing it for the kids.”

have a couple of groms, 9 and 11, and until just recently they both thought of surfing in much the same way that I think of Minecraft ie: that’s it is totally LAME DUDE! The eldest in particular could never be convinced surfing was a fun thing to do. To him it was like doing the dishes, or taking out the garbage, or pulling on my finger. One day while we were standing together on the shoreline digging for pippis I foolishly asked him if he felt like catching a wave with his old man. He looked at me out the corner of his eye, backed away slowly then safe out of reach, turned and bolted as fast as he could not stopping until he was the size of a poppy seed way off in the distance. So it was a shock to the system to be re-introduced to grom froth and the amount of hours spent in the surf – or talking about surf – that comes with it.

Dakoda Walters. (Dunbar)

Despite patches of bad weather at night time, the days for the Grombash were beautifully offshore with clean swells ranging anywhere between the two to five foot range for the entire week. The groms didn’t surf the same wave twice for the first four days and while that might not sound impressive, in that same time they also managed to clock up about 40 hours of footage at 9 different breaks. They were absolutely tireless. When they weren’t in the water going loony on every bump that came their way they were on land seeing who could shove the most bubblegum pieces in their mouth at one time, or blasting each other in the face with silly string, or kicking the footy high into the trees, or playing pranks on SW lads Robbie Dingo and the Great Corbinho. And of course they never stopped asking millions of questions like; “What’s having a job like?” It was great stuff.

Even cooler than that from my point of view, they never disappeared too heavily into their phones. Other than a chuckle at something on Instagram here or there and a few texts home to tell the folks they were eating their veggies and going to bed early, the technology factor was pleasantly absent from the entire trip. When they were given a stack of old SW’s featuring the Grombashes of days gone by they poured over the pages, laughing at the fashion, digging the thick old boards and stoking out on the same classis lines that have always made great surfing great. It was cool to see that to these groms at least, surfing in all its forms, in all its eras, is always something to get totally stoked about.

But the greatest thing about this latest incarnation of the Grombash was that all the kids, every single one of them, were a delight to hang out and surf with. They were a credit to their families, their regions and to surfing in general. Engaged, polite, cheeky without being rude and curious about life, they lived to shred. And my good lord did they shred. Just watch the Grombash film on Coastalwatch right now to see them in action. To coin the old cliche, grommets are the future and it’s a future that will most certainly be featuring Caleb, Dakota, Kehu and Reef.

Of course, there were the odd mildly annoying moments. Like when Kehu smashed the red bearded SW events manager Robbie Dingo in the nose during a game of Kill the Dill with the Pill and was immediately punished with an atomic wedgie that left tonsil marks on his Reg Grundies. And there was the ever present tweak necked  lurking of those yellow eyed bush buzzards, the Australian Brush Turkey, always at the ready to tear your rubbish out of the bag and litter it all over the camp. Bastards.

“It was cool to see that, to these groms at least, surfing in all its forms, in all its eras, Is always something to get totally stoked about.”

As the days went by we surfed and surfed and surfed and surfed some more. Evenings were filled with movies on a big screen we made out of a sheet and some gaffa tape. Frienships formed, waves and stories were shared and, just like the last day of the school holidays, the time to head home seemed to spring up out of nowhere. Except that we couldn’t go home, because the keys were gone. The keys for the RV and for my car had vanished into thin air. I’d left them on a blanket next to a log to pack the cars and when I turned around… nothing. We turned the camp upside down, four, five, six times, until it became apparent our keys hadn’t gone missing, they’d been stolen. All eyes turned to those blasted Brushturkeys. Surely they were to blame. They’d taken their chance, bolted into the camp and racked off with our keys. We headed into the scrub with burning torches and pitchforks ready to upend every nest and crucify anything that stood in our way but it was all to no avail.

As darkness set in we realised the groms would have to get a ride home with photographers Matty Dunbar and Tyler Bell if they were to make their flights out of Sydney. Young Caleb would have to bunker down for one more night as he only lived a few hours away and couldn’t fit in with the others. It was a torturous way to end to such a great week.

The following morning, after another brief hunt, we eventually waved the white flag. Life couldn’t go on like this, plans had to be made. We sorted getting RV keys express posted at an expense of $1000 while another set had to be cut for my car. With everything finally sorted and with both cars packed and ready to go I grabbed a rolled up blanket to put over the boards only to have both sets of the keys we’d been looking for fall at my feet. A moment later my head shrunk into a crimson prune, black feathers began sprouting out of my back, a yellow ring appeared around the base of my neck and when I went to talk the only thing that came out was “gobble gobble gobble!” Then I darted off into the trees like the pathetic kook I was… never to be seen again.

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Vaughan Blakey