In the past 10 years the popularity of surfing has exploded among the youth of Indonesia. One of the primary reasons for this growth is the spread of youth surfing events like the Rip Curl Grom Search, which provides kids across Indo with the opportunity to surf in an Indonesian Surfing Championship tour sanctioned event, win prizes, improve their surfing – and most importantly, have fun – all for free.
On Sunday, September 26th, more than 80 boys and girls from all over Bali showed up at Medewi beach for the third and final stop of the Grom Search. In addition to a solid crew of Medewi locals, young surfers came from Uluwatu, Canggu and Kuta (there were even three surfers from Australia, America and Japan). Grom Search organizers actually had to expand the opening round from four to five-man heats in order to accommodate all the eager grommets.
“This is the most kids we’ve ever had for a GromSearch,” event organizer Wayan Yudha said. “It’s incredible.”
By early morning, the picturesque cobblestone beach at Medewi was already lined with young surfers and their boards.
“When we started doing Grom Search five years ago we would only have like 15 kids come out for a contest,” Rip Curl team rider and event judge Pepen Hendrik said as he watched a pack of youngsters laughing and riding the waves on the inside of the bay, away from the contest area. “Now we have 50 kids coming out, and not just in Bali but the other islands of Indonesia too.”
In the case of Bali’s only Grom Search event, quality wasn’t sacrificed for quantity. Nearly all the kids surfing in the event were already performing at a high level, doing cutbacks, racing past fast sections on the waves, and even pulling progressive maneuvers such as 360s and airs.
Bali’s latest surfing prodigy, Jeren Kiring, scored a narrow victory in the under-16 division. Kiring,14, from Canggu, captured a much-needed wave late in the final and muscled out enough maneuvers to win by a fraction of a point ahead of Angga Mardiana,15, of Nusa Lembongan. Rounding out the final was Koko Mitsuantara (13, Nusa Dua) in third and Moi (15, Canggu) in fourth.
Before running up against Mardiana, Kiring looked unstoppable. The goofyfoot spent the day ripping apart the long 2-to-3 foot lefts on tap at Medewi’s cobblestone point and winning every heat on his way to the final.
As the top two placing surfers at Medewi, Kiring and Mardiana qualified for the Grom Search National Finals, October 23-24 at Kuta Beach. They will square off against the top groms from previous events in Sumbawa and Java for the opportunity to compete in the Grom Seach World Finals, held in conjunction with the Rip Curl Pro WCT event at Australia’s legendary Bells Beach.
“I am so happy right now to make it to the national finals,” Kiring said, surrounded by friends after his victory. “I want to go to Kuta right now and start practicing.”
In the under-14 final, it was Legian local Putu Permana who claimed victory after tearing apart the windy afternoon waves on his frontside and connecting them all the way to the inside bay. Finishing second was Japanese grom Rio, the smallest surfer in the contest at just 10 years old. Rio was unfazed by the Medewi waves, which were easily double overhead for him on the sets, and netted several long rides and vertical backside hacks. Tommy Sobri (14, Bingin) took third and Agus Saputra placed fourth.
“It was hard to surf out there for the final because the tide so low and lots of wind,” Permana said. “Lucky I was able to make it to the inside on my waves and get more turns.”
At the end of the day, it was Rip Curl’s celebrity judges Garut Widiarta, Wayan “Gobleg” Suyadnya and Hendrik who appeared more excited than the groms about the day’s action.
“I can’t wait to see how these groms push their level of surfing at Kuta for the finals,” Hendrik said with a smile as the victorious groms were sprayed with Coca-cola on the winner’s podium. “I’ll be there for sure.”