The culmination of a lifelong dream came together for Seth Broudy last Saturday when the East Coast Grom Tour ( ECGT ) held its first championship event in Rodanthe, North Carolina. Originally scheduled to take place in September at the legendary Cape Hatteras lighthouse, the event was rescheduled due to Hurricane Maria.
The inaugural season of the ECGT started as a conversation between Seth and Surf Dreams founder, Phil Jackson while surfing in Puerto Rico last February. For years Seth tried to find the best way to give back to the surf community to honor his mentor, 17th St surf shop founder, Lee Jones, who was instrumental in creating the 17th Street Surf Shop series that awarded the winning kids amazing prizes and trips to places such as Hawaii and Puerto Rico, while building camaraderie with kids from other towns who also had a passion for surfing. Once Phil heard Seth’s story, he was ready to help Seth take it to the next level, and the East Coast Grom Tour was born.
Through the help of Brad Beach and O’Neill, along with many other sponsors and volunteers, seven events were held during the first season with stops ranging from Virginia Beach to South Carolina, participants needed to compete in a minimum of three events to qualify for the championship and the top prize in each division was a trip to Puerto Rico. After the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico to island infrastructure, the top prize was changed to $500 for each winner, and a surfboard for each runner up.
Championship day’s first light provided a glimpse into the conditions, with a slight on-shore wind chop and sets averaging in the waist to shoulder high range. The day kicked off with a heart warming rendition of the national anthem, sung a cappella by ten year old ECGT competitor Camden Hoover. When the first horn blew, the open shortboard competitors hit the water to chase down the prize money! Highlights of the day on land included beach football, a pumpkin carving contest, which were displayed on the stage during awards, and an autograph session with local pro and top O’niell team rider, Brett Barley. Brett also spent time hanging with the grom’s at the awards ceremony, which took place at Real Watersports.
The action in the water kept the crowd hooting throughout the day while Phil Jackson and Brad Beach handled the commentating duties, keeping the crowd informed and occasionally handing the microphone off to one of the many eager kids looking to show off their surf contest announcers chop’s as well.
Blayr Barton, Owen Carter, and Kanoa Wong battled it out with a variety of airs and power turns, with Blayr and Kanoa exchanging first and second place finishes in Open shortboard and Boys 11-13 while Owen performed at a high level all day to earn a solid 3rd in both divisions.
Blayr also earned the Nixon most radical maneuver award during the Open final by pulling off what head judge David Portch described as a “vertical lip attack”! Lily Brooks earned the top prize in the Girls’ 14-16 division, Miles McCall ripped his way to a coed u10 title, and the first annual Lee Jones Sportsmanship award was presented to Camden Hoover, along with a $500 cash prize donated by the Jones family.
Southern North Carolinian Colby Crombie earned the longboard prize money with smooth plank walks and nose rides in the challenging conditions, edging out fellow finalists Leif Jones, Bree Labiak, and current ESA Easterns menehune champ Scott Pieno. Rachel Wilson dominated on the girls side, taking home the prize money in Girls’ 11-13 and making to the open shortboard semi-finals.
With twenty minute, 4 man heats, and standings kept up to date on the ECGT webpage, many of the kids participating in the series made the comparison that it felt like they were on the WSL tour. When asked his thoughts on the East Coast Grom Tour, Open shortboard winner, Kanoa Wong commented that one of the cool things about the event series was the opportunity to win a watch at each stop through the Nixon radical manuever award, which he was fortunate enough to earn during the Nags Head/Jennette’s Pier stop.
Next season of the East Coast Grom Tour should bring even more fun for the kids as the ECGT gears up for nine tour stops including Melbourne, Florida and Ocean City, Maryland. Co-organizers Phil and Seth are adding a bodyboard division and a whitewater push & go division, while also dropping a hint that the 2018 championships will be held at another legendary East Coast surfing mecca. Judging by the smiles of the participants, and the stoke of the crowd, there will be a plethora of frothing east coast grom’s eager to join the fun!