Learning Strategy And Sportsmanship While Keeping It Fun!
By Ray Sturm
In the North Central Florida area, the “Gnarly Charley’s Surf Series” just completed its fifth season and is quickly becoming the contest of choice for up-and-coming young surfers. Headquartered in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, this unique series of contests provides an opportunity for groms to learn and develop contest skills at a very early age. After seeing too many groms try to jump straight into the highly competitive ESA and NSSA contests, get blown out of the water and end up quitting in frustration, Charley saw that a training ground was needed. Thus, the Grom Surf Series was born.
Developed specifically for kids 14-years-old and younger, the groms learn all of the ins and outs of contest strategy, as well as learning good sportsmanship and how to keep it all fun. “I’ve always felt that the best surfer in the water was the one having the most fun.” And when it comes to learning contest strategy while having fun, they are learning from one of the best.
“Gnarly” Charley Hajek is a 3x ESA champion and a 2x NSSA East Coast champion who turned down the professional ranks to dedicate himself to the promotion of amateur surfing. Inspired by his mentor and former executive director of the ESA, Colin “Doc” Couture, Charley spent the better part of 20 years travelling the world representing amateur surfing on behalf of Doc. He now tries to pass that knowledge and stoke on to the groms through his not-for-profit organization. “Doc was a huge influence on my life because he took an interest in my surfing when no one else did. He really took me under his wing, so now, I try to carry on his spirit and do the same thing for the kids. I want somebody to be there for them – someone who takes an interest in their surfing just like Doc did for me.”
In his series, groms have an opportunity to receive instruction in all aspects of competitive surfing and then practice their skills in healthy competition. Of paramount importance is to always be a good sport, to keep it fun and to make new friends. “The ESA and NSSA can be intimidating at first, especially if you don’t know many people. In my series, they’re not just thrown into the water and left to fend for themselves. They receive instruction and are introduced to other surfers in a positive and supportive environment so that when they go into the water, they not only have a strategy, but they’re also surfing with friends. This encouraging approach helps them to build self-esteem thereby providing confidence for success in the more competitive contests later on.”
Originally organized in Jacksonville Beach, the series is now based in New Smyrna Beach but has already expanded all over the State of Florida. “One day, I would really like to take the series to a national level and perhaps, even into the interior U.S. to compete wherever there are wave pools. That would be really cool, to turn those kids on to the joy of surfing. But for now, I’m content to keep it local and work with the kids here. I’m also busy working on my autobiography, so I don’t really have the time to expand too much right now. The book is scheduled for release this summer and I may look into expanding more after that.”
So the next time you’re in the water and you see a grom ripping it up, particularly in the Central Florida area, you might ask them if they learned their skills in Charley’s grom series. The chances are, they will probably say that they did – especially if they are a good sport about it.
2011 Gnarly Charley’s Grom Surf Series Schedule
March 19 ……………..Flagler Avenue New Smyrna
April 2 …………………Flagler Avenue New Smyrna
May 7…………………..Flagler Avenue New Smyrna
June 4………North of Flagler Avenue New Smyrna
July 9……….North of Flagler Avenue New Smyrna
July 15……………………………………Sebastian Inlet
July 30……..North of Flagler Avenue New Smyrna
August 13 …North of Flagler Avenue New Smyrna
September 10 ………..Flagler Avenue New Smyrna
October 1 ……………..Flagler Avenue New Smyrna
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