The Rip Curl GromSearch 2019 Kicks Off at Huntington Beach

June 19, 2019// Category: L.A. Surf Life // Author: Omari Valentine

The surf season is upon us, and on Saturday, 168 of the top young surfers in the country descended on Huntington Beach along with a powerful South swell for stop one of Rip Curl’s GromSearch series.

A competitor catching a powerful wave approaching the South side of the pier to the delight of onlookers

The series, in its bicentennial anniversary, kicked off on Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th in Huntington Beach, to a powerful, yet temperamental swell that dished out moments of excitement and drama, and allowed the young surfers to showcase their skills to the delight of the judges and fans.

The draw featured pro riders from East to West coast and a slew of standouts from Hawaii, making for an exciting mix of talent, especially in some of the later heats.

Among the competitors were Cannon Karr, last year’s 12/U boys champion, Samantha Sibley, last year’s 16/U girls champion and fellow competitor and USA Surfing Junior team member Caitlin Simmers.  All 3 hail from San Clemente, California.

Surfers from Hawaii included Jackson Dorian, 11-year-old godson of Kelly Slater and son of pro surfer Shane Dorian surfing in the 12/U division, Levi Young, last year’s USA Surfing champion in 14/U, Rylan Beavers, NSSA MiniGrom champion in 2017 and Kai Martin, winner of GromSearch Hawaii stop 2 years running, and Diego Ferri, who made it to Finals in last year’s competition.

The History

The GromSearch opens annually in Surf City where finalists are invited to compete in the National Championships in Waco TX in the Fall. Other stops along the way include Hawaii, Florida and North Carolina.

The series includes 4 youth divisions: Boys 12/U, 14/U and 16/U, while girls had a single 16 and under division. With heats of 4-6 the first 2 rounds of action took place on day 1, narrowing the field by half each round, then day 3 featured 3rd rounds, semi-finals and finals. In each heat, surfers compete for the best 2 scores for waves ridden, judged on a 10-point scale.

The event was called by Ryan Simmons, the perineal announcer for many pro events and judged by ISA judges Bill Seitz, Dave Shipley, Mike McCabe, Tim Milliken and Phil Lockman.

Rip Curl developed the concept for the GromSearch events in 1999, that has now 20 years later gone international, and is aimed at finding the next generation of young surfing stars. Former GromSearch champions include Gabriel Medina, Owen Wright, Jordy Smith, Matt Wilkinson, Mason Ho, Nat Young, Kolohe Andino, Tyler Wright, Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons.

The Final Day

A nice South swell rolled through pushing the strongest waves towards the South side of the pier, conditions that gave way to a few launches by the competitors. There were breaks in the action at times, where the young surfers were forced to wait it out or feed off smaller waves on the inside.

The semi-finals was exciting and featured a few dramatic moments, pumping Southies and a dangerous moment with one of the surfers in the 12 and under division requiring medical attention after a close encounter with a stingray. Notable moments included a vicious air by Diego in the 14 and under semis, and a 9.33 wave surfed by Kai, the 12/U champion two years running, allowing him to get the lead late on the inside to take the heat and make the finals.

The 12/U was set up to feature Canon Karr, Jackson Dorian and Diesel Butts all surfing great. Then in a surprise entry, Jak Ziets, the injured surfer, paddled out despite already having qualified for Waco. Once the surfing got underway it was Jackson Dorian providing most of the thrills with his aggressive turns off of a powerful left by the pier that left his competitors in the dust with only minutes left.

The 14 and under finals was perfectly set up to be a tighter competition with Rip Curl team riders Kai and Levi and dominant NSSA Middle School Champ William Hedleston. But it proved to be just as lopsided as Kai Martin repeated his semi-finals form, bettering his 9.33 with a 9.43, which would be enough to take the win.

Meanwhile the girls 16 and under semis the surfers battle a bit of a break in the wave action, with a stall in the middle of the first heat and some less powerful sets in the second. In the end, it was Rip Curl team rider Alyssa Spencer from Carlsbad taking it all.

Alyssa Spencer takes the girls championship at Huntington

Boys 16 and under featured Rip Curl team riders and an East Coast vs. Hawaii match-up, but in the end it was Levi Slawson who took an early lead before the temperamental swell stalled, allowing him to preserve the win.

Despite the overcast skies and irregular wave conditions, the event was an excellent start to the series, and left the qualifying surfers not only looking ahead to the final in Waco, but the USA Championships running throughout the week in San Clemente.

Sponsors present at the event were Banzai Bowls, Wahoo’s, Sector 9, FCS, Surface and Surfliner.

Next pit stop is a bit further down the coast at Lower Trestles for USA championships.

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