Looking back at how kids’ contest grew

Jane SemanAugusta Margaret River Times
Keighley Bremner recently surfing The Right.
Camera IconKeighley Bremner recently surfing The Right. Credit: Picture:, @mattmacphoto

The 24th Sunsmart Gracetown Grommets competition is set to run again at Cowaramup Bay this Sunday in ideal conditions.

The contest had its early origins as a club and interschool competition, run by local principal Ian Bremner, Russell Catto and Peter McFarlane.

But after the 1996 Gracetown cliff collapse claimed nine lives, it was a teenage Keighley Bremner who revamped the contest into its current format. Bremner lost his dad Ian in the tragedy.

Bremner was a successful junior surfer with good sponsorship.

But back in the 1990s, there was no platform for younger grommets to show their talent.

Bremner fondly recalls his strong friendships and local rivalry with his brother and the Englert and Jakovich boys.

“All I ever wanted to do was go in a contest so that I could beat my mates,” he said.

His sponsors at the time were keen to back the event.

With surfing a positive outlet for his grief, the young surfer powered on and restarted the event with a card table and a few rash vests.

Bremner printed judging sheets and enlisted the help of parents to help with the judging.

Now he’s proud the prestigious event has grown over time to become the longest-running dedicated junior surf contest in WA.

“It still has that focus on the little kids,” he said.

“But with the prestige of the event, it also gives them the exposure that wasn’t there unless you did State rounds. Surfing is so healthy and good in so many ways. If you can go through childhood and adolescence with surfing or another sport, it keeps you away from the not-so-good focuses that get thrown your way.”

The surfer said he was hopeful the grommets competing this weekend might be inspired to help other young surfers as well.

Sunday’s contest has 57 confirmed entries, including some of the region’s most notable up-and-coming junior surfers.

In the under-16 girls’ division, State champion Ruby Berry, 2019 under-16 State champion Zali Hewson, and Taj’s Small Fries 2020 winner Willow Hardy and younger sister Olive will all take to the waves.

South West surfers are expected to dominate the under-16 boys’ competition, with a field to include 2019 under-16 runners-up Sol Pogue-Englert from Cowaramup and Dylan Vernon from Yallingup.

The under-12 contest will be a battle between Cowaramup and Yallingup clubs, with competitors including 2019 State champion Maverick Wilson and 2020’s Max Ghiretti.

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