(Tuesday, 17 May, 2005): Australia’s next generation of surf stars will descend upon Newcastle and surf it out for the coveted title of “King of The Groms when the Australian qualifying round of Quiksilver’s inaugural global series commences at Main Beach this weekend.
Nearly 100 surfers aged under 16 will travel from every state of Australia to compete in the prestigious two-day event, with only the winner and one wildcard walking away with the spoils – berths into the King of The Groms grand final scheduled for the pristine beachbreaks of Capbreton, France August 1 — 7.
Forty eight surfers from nine of the world’s renowned surfing regions, including France, New Zealand, Japan, Reunion Island, USA and South America are eligible to qualify for the grand final with the eventual “King being given an unprecedented kick-start to the career of their dreams.
Treated like royalty, the lucky Grom will be flown, along with a chaperone, to three of the biggest professional tournaments in the world — the Quiksilver Pros Japan, France and Australia, and be granted guaranteed trials spots into each of the competitions.
A good showing at these events could see him come up against the world’s elite, including the likes of three-time world champion Andy Irons and six-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater.
Aussie teen standouts Owen Wright (Culburra, NSW), Shane Felsinger (Sunshine Coast, QLD), Davey Cathels (Narrabeen, NSW), Shaun Howe (Kalbarri, WA) and Dean Bowen (Gerroa, NSW) are just some of the groms in likely contention, with the country’s younger ranks literally bursting at the seams.
Heavily touted Wright is an undisputed favourite. A quarter-final showing at Newcastle last month in a pro junior competition against competitors five years his senior along with an unbeaten four-year winning streak in his respective divisions at the annual Lennox Head U/16 Gromfest, already see the goofy-footer marked as a future world beater.
“I’ve always done well at Newcastle, explained Wright. “I like the beach. We have a point near home which is pretty much the same as the point at Newcastle, and I’ve been surfing it since I was about five so it feels the same. I was stoked to do well there in the pro junior.
“When I was reading about the King of The Groms and what you could win, I was going, ‘Oh, my god, that’s filth!’. I was getting so psyched about it. If you win you clean up, said Wright.
Star of Quiksilver’s King of The Groms promotional banner Chris Salisbury (Newport, NSW), Blake Ainsworth (Gold Coast, Qld) and Garrett Parkes (Byron Bay, NSW) are other surfers likely to make a big impact.
Warren Smith, contest co-ordinator for the world-ranked Energy Australia MR Open, famous for being the only event to simultaneously attract all of surfing’s world champions to its shores in 2000, anticipates an awesome weekend of competitive surfing.
“Newcastle is very proud to be able to present a unique event like this. The area boasts history of world class surfers including the likes of Mark Richards, Luke Egan and Matt Hoy and to be able to play a part in finding Australia’s next-big-thing in a sport like surfing which is so intrinsic to the Australian way of life is something to be proud of.
Originally planned to accommodate 64 competitors, intense interest from Australia’s fledgling grommets saw the King of The Groms draw immediately expanded to 96 and as Smith explains, could’ve easily blown-out well past 100.
It was an incredible reaction and testament to the depth of Australian surfing, said Smith. “But we had to draw the line somewhere. As it is we still might be looking at reducing the duration of some heats in order to complete the event in daylight.
Hoy, a former World Championship Tour competitor, will be joined by another famous surfer, 1989 World Champion Martin Potter, with the legends on hand to commentate, surf and meet the grommets.
Entry is free and the region has been chosen for its history and tthe likelihood of good surf at this time of year. The winning grommet will be draped in a robe and crowned, while additional prizes are on offer for minor placings.
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