The Surfing World Grom Bash has been around since the mag was first published in 1962. In those days publisher/editor Bob Evans would stuff a car with guys like Nat Young, Bob McTavish, Albe Falzon, and John Witzig and drive north, away from the city in search of rolling green headlands and sand bottom cylinders. The Pacific Highway was still dirt road in places and to get from Sydney to the Gold Coast required the crossing of six rivers by barge. It was no small effort to put the suspension of the day through its paces on wild bush tracks to the beach but the payoff was surf, plenty of it, and the high performance experimental sessions of the next generation was always showcased in the pages of the next month’s Surfing World when the boys returned to Sydney.
This idea was taken to entirely new levels when Hugh McLeod and Bruce Channon took over in the early 70s, what’s now fondly remembered by many as a golden era for SW. Hugh and Bruce were always supportive of the next wave of Aussie talent, and iconic covers would feature a 14-year-old Tom Carroll’s zinc covered shnozz with a coverline reading Magic School, or TC, Cheyne Horan, and Ant Corrigan living it up in a Rolls Royce as the stars of surfing’s big money future. But it was the road trips that came a few years later… Kong and Mitchy Thorson, Occy and Dog, Crammy and Barton, Luke and Bainy, Hoyo and Powelly… entire issues full of wild adventures and breathtaking photography from every corner of the country, that fired the imaginations of grommets everywhere. So many waves. So much fun. And all you needed was a car? This was something to surf for.
It was during the Reggae, Baker, Kidman, and Lees years that the term Grom Bash was first coined. Less to do with atomic wedgies, crumb cutlets, dead legs, titty twisters, crow pecks, wet willies, blue mountains, or putting bikes in the top branches of the Norfolk Pines that line the Queenscliff foreshore, the idea was to have a surf comp that rewarded kids who surfed with classic Aussie animal. The format was ridiculously simple, Groms came from all over the place to freesurf for a few hours in front of SW selected judges – including World Champs Mark Occhilupo, Barton Lynch, Damien Hardman, and Aussie icons like Matt Hoy – and the six names whose surfing had been enjoyed the most would get picked for the Grom Bash. It was the golden ticket, with a cover and an entire mag’s worth of pages up for grabs. The ultimate pre-internet opportunity to get away from the folks, score a bunch of waves with the best peers in the country, and hopefully make a name for yourself. Guys like Mick Fanning, Joel Parkinson, Ace Buchan, Shaun Cansdell… they all had some of their first ever photos published during the SW Grom Bash.
The talent for this year’s Grom Bash earned their spots in a similar fashion, via the Billabong Bloodlines Series. From each of the five events, one in each mainland state, one surfer would be selected by a living legend to take part on this trip. Sometimes it might not even be the kid who won the comp, but rather a little punk Taj Burrow likes the fin ditch on, or a future power hound who raises Occy’s eyebrows, or a little greasy nose that reminds Parko of somebody he used to see in the mirror when he first hit puberty. Either way, to get a start is a compliment in itself. Surfing World throws in a wildcard selection as well, and then there’s the writer (me), the photog (Al “The Night” Brunton) and the filmmaker (Tyler Bell). And just in case any of the kids do get a bit lippy, there’s also one legit Grom Basher – or as we like to call him, Corbin Nash.
The river barges may be long gone, in their place a dual expressway with exits that lead to carparks in front of surf breaks that used to be cherished secrets. And magazines don’t launch careers in the same way a well edited web clip can make a global sensation in under 24 hours. Everything changes, and surfing will always continue to evolve for better and worse. The glory days of Grom Bashes past are just that for the surfers that went on them and the rest of us who poured over them in fresh issues of glossy Surfing World magazines… glory days. But the glory days still exist for the groms that are living them right now. A post surf pie still tastes like the best thing you could ever put in your weird teenage body, and leaving real life behind to go on a surf trip with your mates will always beat the shit out of sitting in a double of maths. That’s what the Grom Bash is about. That’s what it will always be about!