Once upon a time Sean White was the best known grom on the planet. A prodigy in both skateboarding and snowboarding, he was featured in videos by the time he was eight years old. Now he’s an Olympic halfpipe champion and X Games champion, and is widely recognized as one of the best vert ramp skaters in the world.
Next week a new generation of groms will have their chance to shine at the second annual Great Northwest Gromfest, from July 6 to 10 in Whistler.
Gromfest is actually two events in one, with an on-mountain terrain park competition held in partnership with Camp of Champions, and a skateboard competition in Whistler’s street park.
The first annual event was challenging, with rain driving skateboarders to the underground park at Creekside, but lead organizer Ryan Simpson says the event is set to grow again this year.
“We have a much larger snow group coming this year, we’ve already got 34 or 35 riders signed up, and so far we’ve got about 15 skaters or so this year — not counting locals from Squamish and Whistler that can come out if they want to,” said Simpson. About 100 riders and 50 skaters qualified this year at other Gromfest events, and about a third are making the trip to Whistler.
“We’re going to keep building it,” said Simpson. “Next year we’re looking for at least 50 kids on snow and 35 skaters. Even with the rain last year we have about 75 per cent of the skateboarders from last year returning, and we’re finding that we just have to get the kids here one time and they get hooked.”
Only a handful of athletes will be competing in both snowboard and skate events, but Simpson expects that to grow as word gets out. As well, in the future he is planning to add new events like a freeski competition and possibly a mountain bike or BMX event, although that will likely depend on sponsorship.
As for who’s coming this year, Simpson has already signed up athletes from B.C., Alberta, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California, and the Dominican Republic. He’s also hoping that Squamish and Whistler skaters will turn out on the practice day at their respective parks, and will sign up to take part in the finals.
The skateboard practice day is July 6, and Gromfest will have a presence at the parks in Whistler and Squamish during the day. All of the invited skaters will need to participate in a skate competition meeting that evening at 7:30 p.m. at Rebagliati Park where they will meet the judges and learn the rules.