The Grom Bomb

It’s the reason World Industries is represented by acartoon flame character, the reason Element and Alien Workshophave re-birthed mini boards, the reason Baker hypes its “little guys”more than its pros. Forty-nine percent of today’s skateboarders arebetween the ages of six and eleven*, and the skateboard industry isdesperately trying to grasp this age-defying demographic. Contestsare no exception, and while am events have been around since theStone Age, there’s now a need for contests to focus on an evenyounger age bracket. Thanks to mainstream media, the parents ofpreteens finally see skateboarding in a positive light and are jumpingat the chance to sign up their little babies for skateboard contests.

T. Eric Monroe from the United Skateboarding Associationhad his epiphany while watching a ten year old killing the Beast OfThe East championship against guys in their twenties. Knowing theremust be other unmined pint-size rippers, the Grom series wasstarted in 2001 and operates within the confines of a six- tothirteen-year age range. “We decided to focus on the kids that arereally the most interested and eager to be a part of skateboarding,the beginner, and intermediate-level kid,” Monroe explains. “This isthe kid who owns everything with Tony Hawk’s name on it. This isthe kid who made (World Industries Founder Steve) Rocco and hispartners rich! They are the biggest part of the skateboard market,yet they get shit on because they’re little grommets who get in yourway at a skatepark. We figured the best way to keep these kidsinterested in skateboarding was by giving them their own scene. Ascene that supports them and is parent friendly.”

While the Grom series rules the East Coast, CASL (CaliforniaAmateur Skateboard League) has reigned in the West Coast foryears, 22 to be exact. While CASL is broken up into Southern,Central, and Northern California series, contest newcomer, The NextCup presented by Osiris, began with the intent of focusing solely onthe San Diego area. After only one year, however, The Next Cup isexpanding into other states.

These two West Coast series have slightly different agebracketing as well. CASL has “minis” as eight and under, “novice” asnine to ten, and “1A” as eleven to twelve. The Next Cup breaks it uplike so: “groms” for skaters ten and under and “kids” for ages elevento fourteen.

No matter how you split ’em, there’s an undeniable baby-boom going on here and a younger demographic to target. In its firstyear, the Grom series was test marketed with five contests to seewhat the response would be from kids and parents alike.Surprisingly, there were more people per event with minimaladvertising and promotion than at the Beast Of The East series whichnow focuses strictly on age fourteen and older skaters who are morelikely to be sponsored. Subsequently, this year’s Grom seriesincludes twelve contests and its own championship. Similarly, TheNext Cup has been reporting sold-out contests in every division.

It’s not just all about fleecing the kiddies and their parents’dough, though, there’s tons of good in this for the skatersthemselves. As the kids graduate into the older brackets (i.e., BeastOf The East, CASL 2A and 3A) and pick up sponsors, they’ve gotinvaluable contest-skating experience. More importantly, they knowcontests can be fun because they’ve been competing with kids theirown age and skill level from the beginning. Before we know it, thesekids are making the big splash at Tampa Am, a’ la Bastien Salabanziand Danny Cerezini. And from there, well, we all know how lucrativecontest skating has become in the past few years.

Keeping these contests fun for the ultra-younguns has beenaccomplished in some interesting new ways by the organizers. AtGrom events, anyone in the top 50 goes away with a grab bag full ofskate mags, stickers, a T-shirt, and other various accessories thatsponsors kick down. “This way, if a kid gets out there and is sonervous that he can’t land anything, he’s still getting support andencouragement just for trying,” Monroe comments. At The NextCup, along with giveaways from several cosponsoring companies, aband or DJ performs at each contest making it an all-day familyevent. Then when the kids get home, they can check the day’sfootage at thenextcup.com.

As these contests grow and expand, and new contest seriesstart popping up in every city, the long-standing generation gapbetween skaters and overprotective parents may finally be bridgedwith the help of wee groms–who knew? The mini-van-driving soccermoms who have so long been the bane of suburban skaterseverywhere may turn out to be the support-screaming skate momsof the future, taking the next Eric Koston to his Saturday morningskate contest. Hmm.

*American Sports Data 2001 Superstudy Of SportsParticipation