Grom Bomb! Rip Curl Kids Blow Up Smyrna In Search E.C. Opener!

August 13, 2019 • Competition, East Coast Contests

The 2019 Rip Curl GromSearch presented by Banzai Bowls kicked off its East Coast leg this past weekend on the beaches of New Smyrna, Florida. Continuing with the luck of the 2019 season, the Inlet provided a full day of perfect grom sized lines paired with morning offshores and afternoon glassoffs. The New Smyrna region, typically a large talent pool for junior surfers, didn’t disappoint as locals put up big wins and high scores on their home turf against surfers from all over the America’s. After last year’s treacherous combination of sharks and thunderstorms, a small mid-day storm this year was nothing to worry about during the 100-degree afternoon.

And, in case you don’t know, former GromSearch champions include current WSL World Tour stars; Gabriel Medina, Owen Wright, Jordy Smith, Matt Wilkinson, Kolohe Andino, Tyler Wright, Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, and Caroline Marks so, no small potatoes series this.

Summertime Smyrna is a great hedge if you are planning to hold a surf contest in Florida in August. Photo: Tupat

As the inlet gates opened, the 96 competitors got a first look of what was on offer for the single day of competition. Not only was there a strong Floridian contingent on hand, but surfers from up and down the East Coast, California, Panama, and Costa Rica entered the competition. Each of the top four finalists in their respective age groups earned themselves a spot for the RCGS National Final at the world famous BSR Surf Resort. The National Champions in the Boys and Girls 16/U divisions will then earn their right to compete in the RCGS International Final which will take place somewhere along on The Search in the Spring of 2020.

Getting busy early and maximizing your wave count seemed to be the strategy rolling into the first Final of the day, the Boys 12/U. This heat saw an all-Floridian lineup as Benji Lange, Braeden Kopec, Beckham McCart and Kyan O’Rourke battled it out in clean mid-day conditions. Braeden stuck to the winning strategy, grabbing 7 waves in his final with 3 in the excellent range earning him a 15.50 heat total, comboing the rest of the finalists.

The Consistency Kid. It’s a rare east coast comp that Braeden Kopec does not get into the final and take home a first. Photo: Tupat

Moving on to the all East Coast Boys 14/U Final, North Carolina’s Owen Carter took on Floridians William Hedleston, Ryan Huckabee and Carl Burger. Slower than the previous final, competitors were forced to wait it out and pick off the larger sets of the 12-wave heat. Owen found the 2 best waves and absolutely smashed them, earning the Finals highest heat total of 18.33, with 2 judges throwing 10’s at his nearly perfect 9.83.

The New Smyrna lines began to pour in and provide ample opportunity for the action packed 16/U Girls Final consisting of Ava McGowan (FL), Bree Labiak (SC), Madison Lavender (FL) and Carlie Eastwood (FL). Compared to the 12-wave final of the previous division, the girls managed to grab 34 waves in their 20-minute heat. Ava McGowan was able to sneak into the 2 longer waves of the heat, allowing her to get an 8.83 on the way to her 15.00-point total win.

“Thank you so much for always bringing the GromSearch here to New Smyrna Beach. It is my favorite contest and I have looked forward to it every summer. I’ve been surfing it since I was 10 and I’m so happy to finally win. I came home from Cali with one goal and that was to win it here at home. So stoked on the waves and day,” McGowan explained post victory.

One of the east coasts best young female rippers, Miss Ava Mc Gowan. Photo: Tupat

The Boys 16/U Final was an International affair as Costa Rica’s own Aaron Ramirez and Samuel Reidy took on Panama’s Tao Rodriguez and sole Floridian, Tommy Coleman. Luckily the swell hung on and provided plenty of scoring opportunity for the world’s best junior surfers to battle head to head. Tao and Tommy went back and forth for most of the heat, until Tao found a 7.43 on his 5th wave to seal the deaL.

“I am overwhelmed with emotion as I was looking forward to winning the event. I am also extremely excited to get the chance to go to Waco. I have never surfed in a wave pool and the National Final sounds so fun! I want to thank Rip Curl for a great event as there were amazing prizes and there was a marvelous event organization. Waves were so fun and there were great competitors. So stoked!” said Rodriquez.

Tao Rodriguez. Photo: Tupat

Not only did the division winners walk away with titles to their names, but young gun Kepa Mendia won the Banzai Bowls Air Maneuver of the Event with a clean front-side punt in his early morning heat. Mendia was awarded with $300 and an exclusive invitation to the Banzai Bowls Air-show in conjunction with the RCGS National Final at BSR Surf Resort.

Although William Hedleston’s blazing run was tempered in the 14/u final, finishing in 4th, Hedleston was awarded with the …Lost Surfboards High Heat total with a near perfect 18.77 heat total, while scoring himself a custom shaped Matt ‘Mayhem’ Biolas surfboard.

Noah Brownell. Photo: Shon “What Sharks?” Lassiter

GromSearch wouldn’t be possible without our 2019 event partners, Banzai Bowls, BSR Surf Resort, PerfectSwell, Flexfit, FCS, Sector 9, Surface, Surfline, …LOST Surfboards, Oakley and Wahoo’s Fish Tacos.

Be sure to head to to check out post event coverage as well as and our @ripcurl_usa social channels for live action and updates.

We hope to see you at our next GromSearch event later this week August 15th at Jennette’s Pier, Nags Head, NC. For full event coverage, video highlights, photos, and entries head to

View from the water. Photo: Shon Lassiter


Boys 16/Under 

1. Tao Rodriguez, Panama                              15.26   ($250) 

2. Tommy Coleman, Florida                            14.67

3. Samuel Reidy, Costa Rica                            10.80

4. Aaron Ramirez, Costa Rica                         10.50

Tommy Coleman dropping bombs during the NSB Grom Search. Photo: Tupat

Girls 16/Under 

1. Ava McGowan, Florida                                15.00   ($250)

2. Bree Labiak, South Carolina                        7.94

3. Madison Lavender, Florida                         7.60

4. Carlie Eastwood, Florida                             2.83

Boys 14/Under 

1. Owen Carter, North Carolina                     18.33   ($250)

2. Carl Burger, Florida                                     10.83

3. Ryan Huckabee, Florida                              8.67

4. William Hedleston, Florida                         3.90

Cack-a-lacky’s Owen Carter is another right coast grom surfing far beyond his age bracket and another one to watch over the coming years. Photo: Tupat

Boys 12/Under 

1. Braeden Kopec, Florida                               15.50   ($250)

2. Beckham McCart, Florida                           9.16

3. Kyan O’Rourke, Florida                               7.40

4. Benji Lange, Florida                                    3.56

Banzai Bowls Maneuver (Air) of the Event: 

Kepa Mendia ($300) 

Kepa Mendia. Photo: Tupat

…LOST Surfboards High Heat Total:
William Hedleston, 18.77 Points

William Hedleston. Photo: Tupat

Girls U16 finalists. Photo: Tupat

Boys U16 finalists. Photo: Tupat

Bos U12 finalists. Photo: Tupat

Event finalists. Photo: Tupat

Boys U14 finalists. Photo: Tupat

Stoked Search groms. Ain’t a good day at the beach without sand all over you. Photo: Tupat

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