Costa Mesa, CA — The second of four regional qualifying stops of the 2017 Rip Curl GromSearch presented by Banzai Bowls visited the beautiful shoreline of Kewalo Basin, Oahu, Hawaii over the past weekend. Being the hub of premiere surfing in Hawaii, Kewalos’ perfect A-frame peak provided consistent 2-4 foot surf for the Nation’s top groms.
88 contestants entered, but only four reigned supreme, while taking home $250 cash, bragging rights, and a boatload of epic prizes. All four finalists in each of the four age divisions also earned the coveted invitation to compete in the Rip Curl GromSearch National Final, set to be held later this year at Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz, CA October 6-7. 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 on The Search in the Spring of 2018.
Using home court advantage the Hawaiians dominated the majority of the event, until one unsung visitor surprised the field by stealing the show. Young Taro Watanabe of Malibu, California made the most of his flight to Hawaii by not only placing 4th in the 14/u division, but taking top honors in the 16/u too!
“My goal was to make the GromSearch National Final and give myself a chance to compete in the International event,” explained Watanabe on his decision to fly out to Hawaii, “I love these events because they are fun and enjoyable, but really competitive at the same time.”
Finishing runner up to Watanabe was a new face on the scene, Kauian Cole Frye, who unfortunately was called for a double interference in the dying seconds of the heat, which ultimately ruined his chance of victory. 3rd place went to Maui’s Cole Alves, while finishing 4th was another mainland traveler, Caleb Crozier who took the trip over from San Diego, CA.
Speaking of Cole Alves, he not only qualified for the National Final, but he was also awarded the Banzai Bowls Maneuver of the Event for a critical tail-high air reverse. Alves was awarded $300 in two dollar bills for his no-holds barred approach.
More than any other location on the GromSearch circuit, when the Hawaiian girls hit the water, you don’t want to miss a wave. The type of surfing these young girls put on display will humble the most seasoned vets. All four girls were first time GromSearch finalists, which shows the depth of the field in Hawaii. When it was all said and done, Keala Tomoda-Bannert tore her way to a near perfect 9.93 ride on her way to victory. Coming up just short in 2nd with her own impressive 15 pt. heat total was the young phenom by the name of Bettylou Sakura Johnson. 3rd went to Summer Ivy, while rounding out the final in 4th was Leila Riccobuano.
Moving on to the Boys 14/u, another underdog made his mark in the most stacked age division. Kauian, Sage Tutterow used his aggressive tactics to take the victory over Robert Grilho III, Tony Nunez, and Taro Watanabe.
Robert Grilho, also known as RG3, was another specialty award winner for scoring an 18.17 heat total which earned him the …LOST Surfboards High Heat Total and a custom shaped Matt ‘Mayhem’ Biolas surfboard. Congrats RG3!
Big surfing from the youngest division showcased an Oahu final, as the close-friends duked it out for the top spot. In the end Kai Martin took top honors, as Shion Crawford finished runner-up, Luke Swanson in 3rd, and Makana Franzmann in 4th.
We hope to see you at our next GromSearch event August 12th or 13th at New Smyrna Inlet, Florida. For full event coverage, video highlights, photos, and entries head to www.ripcurl.com/gromsearch.
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Since Rip Curl developed the concept for the GromSearch events in 1999, the series has spread throughout the surfing world and now culminates with an International final held at a different location each year. The worldwide series is held for male and female surfers aged 16 years and under, commonly referred to as “groms”, with the aim of the GromSearch is to nurture and recruit the next generation of surfers at a grassroots level.
Former GromSearch champions include current WSL World Tour stars; Gabriel Medina, Owen Wright, Jordy Smith, Matt Wilkinson, Nat Young, Kolohe Andino, Tyler Wright, Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons.