What’s in a name? Nothing as long as it sounds cool
WELCOME to today's episode of Sidelines, where we're at the 10th annual T&C Surf Grom Contest to find the answer to a question that has puzzled mankind through the ages, that question being, What the heck is a grom?
"It's like a kid surfer," said Brandon Vicente, 13.
OK, so that part of the answer is not so tough. It's pretty obvious, looking around. A grom is of course a small-petot surfer, and they were everywhere, yesterday. Boys. Girls. All of them with their short longboards and their really-short shortboards and their hair sun bleached no matter its original hue. They were groms. But why? What does that mean? Where does it come from? What is the story behind it? To steal a line from the spelling bee, what is its language of origin? Its root word?
We ask the tough questions, in this space.
To find this out, yesterday, we had to brave a trip in to Waikiki, to survive the perilous adventures of trying to find a parking space, before finally arriving at Kuhio Beach Park. (Holy cow, go down the names on that commemorative plaque -- had law license suspended, questionable business practices, did time, did time, wrote "The Renaissance of Honolulu," lost mayoral election and disappeared from the face of the earth ...)
There they were, everywhere. Groms. A number of them looked like miniature Jeff Spicolis. A couple of the dads might have been the inspiration for the old duded-out surfing penguin from that new movie, Big Z.
But Brandon, and his brother, and their friend, Chris Clark, they were perfect. These were groms. They were the picture in the dictionary. They would know.
"I don't know," Brandon said.
His father said he thought it might be an Aussie term.
"That's what I think I heard on the news," Austin Vicente, 11, said.
Did Chris, 13, know where it comes from?
"Maybe just because it sounds cool," he said.
But George Vicente, the dad, seemed pretty sure it might have come from Australia. Something to do with the shorts kids wear?
Well, no. But he is on to something. It is an Aussie expression, short for grommet, which is an Australian fish (looks kind of like a mullet). Surfit.com.au says, "The term is believed to have come from the fact that in some coastal areas there are huge groups of a small fish variety that hang in packs, playing in the waves and acting in a strange manner ..."
Those meddling kids? They were grommets. Then groms. It's a term of endearment.
As surfers, and later surf contests, traversed the globe in search of waves, the label traveled with them, and stuck. The people in the new places didn't seem to question the tag, but rather, just accepted it, especially since that's what all the surfing magazines and contests called the kids. Or if people did wonder once, they don't seem to anymore.
And so there they were, yesterday, all over the beach, and the break. Groms. None seemed to know why they were. Just that they were.
"It's, like, a kid that surfs," another said, when asked. Where did the term originally come from? He didn't have any idea. But the friend sitting next to him knew exactly.
"Old guys," he said.