Gracetown Grommets marks 25 years since 1996 cliff collapse tragedy

Jane SemanAugusta Margaret River Times
Skye Thompson with daughter Meeka Bay.
Camera IconSkye Thompson with daughter Meeka Bay.

This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the Gracetown Grommets junior surfing competition held to honour the nine lives lost in the 1996 Gracetown cliff collapse.

This year’s competition has a record 75 entrants, including the grandchildren of Lindsay Thompson who died in the tragedy.

Thompson was an early pioneer of junior surf coaching and competitions in Margaret River.

His inspiration was to help children not only learn to surf, but progress their surf skills as well, and was credited as the first person to organise a girls’ surfing squad in the region, which his son Neil later continued.

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Thompson’s daughter Skye, the Cowaramup Bay Boardriders secretary involved in hosting the event, said she was excited to see her children Fynn and Reef compete in the event which has such personal ties.

“I get to watch my own children at a break that my dad taught me to surf in. It’s just pure joy,” she said.

Community support after the 1996 tragedy was a big factor in helping her family cope through the aftermath, she told the Times.

“We were surrounded by so much friendship and love in the community, and we were given so much support,” she said.

“We had counselling at both the primary school and high school. It really helped being able to talk about it and be really open. I was never alone.

“Tragedy can be awful when you’re alone, but having a caring community around you helps you so much.”

Skye said returning to the ocean to conquer her fears was another crucial help.

“I struggled a few years after, but refound the ocean and realised it was so powerful, healing and fun,” she said.

The shock death of high-profile young local surfers Ry Dempsey and Jack Macaulay highlighted the need for community togetherness in times of grief, Skye said.

“We were allowed to grieve and were given those opportunities to remember, grieve and acknowledge,” she said.

“We can distract ourselves, but if you just keep distracting, you don’t let yourself feel. You don’t want to just carry it.”

The Act Belong Commit Gracetown Grommets will take off on Saturday or Sunday depending on conditions at Huzzas or South Point in Cowaramup Bay.

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