The Difference Between a Grom and a Kook in Surfing

On a casual day at the beach, you will observe all kinds of people as well as all kinds of surfers.

The joy of surfing for a beginner is a lot of things; the thrill of riding a wave and the misery of missing one. However, there is a very big difference between being a student who eagerly wants to learn, and a show-off who wants to pretend they know.

Let us delve into the surfing lingo for these two kinds of people and see where we fit on our surfing journey.

What is a Grom

It’s difficult to pinpoint EXACTLY where the term “grom” originated from. What is for sure is that it has been part of the surfers’ lingo since the early sixties. Grommet, often abbreviated to simply “Grom” generally refers to a young surfer more or less eighteen years old who is just getting started in the sport.

It is thought that the origin of this word could be an unofficial name used to refer to the lowest ranking members of a naval ship. The Australian surfing community then adopted it to their young, unskilled surfers both in a friendly way and as a way to poke some little fun at them.

The term stuck and has now been taken up by virtually the whole surfing community. It has recently extended to other board sports like snowboarding and skateboarding but is normally reserved for an especially skilled or gifted young surfer who shows promise.

What is a Kook?

Surfing is a very fashionable summer activity. Newspapers and magazines run trend pieces on "surfer hair" and "surfer style." This captivation seems to encompass every facet of the surf culture … except surfing itself.

Surfing’s popular rise to fame has birthed a tribe known as the Kooks.

If It Looks Like A Kook And Acts Like A Kook

Surfers have their distinct word for surfing posers. They go by the name “kooks”. It is not known exactly why a new name was coined to differentiate them from normal posers, but a good reason could be that Kooks can be worse that posers. Why? You ask.

While a normal poser only makes a fool of himself trying to pretend he’s what he’s not, surfing has some other factors to consider.

Surfers must share both the ocean and waves. The kook can hinder other surfer’s fun primarily because he knows nothing about surf ethics or doesn’t have the proper skill and training to maneuver a particular surf spot. He can very quickly make the surf session extremely dangerous for himself and those around him.

So Then, What Exactly Is A Kook?

A kook is a person who is ignorant and/or disregards the social norms of surfing. In the water, the cluelessness or inconsiderateness of a kook can endanger or aggravate other surfers.

A kook can also be described as a surfer who has an inflated perception of his surf skills and whose lack of knowledge, particularly concerning surf ethics, has the high probability of interfering with the fun of the other surfers in the water. Basically, they think their wipeout is a one in a million mistakes while your wipeout is just how you surf every wave. Kooks are not know to be self-aware.

How To Win Friends, Influence Surfers & Not Be Called A Kook

You will notice surf kooks everywhere - carrying surfboards within the mall, exercising on the boardwalk, and driving on the highway sporting a board through the side of their car.

It is important to note that kookiness has little to do with actually learning how to surf. A novice surfer will not necessarily go through being a kook first. When starting out, you're "allowed" to blunder as you learn.

Habits that will immediately label you a kook

When it comes right down to it, it’s all about how a someone acts that makes them a kook or not. Generally speaking, kooks are rude to fellow surfers and carry an attitude that speaks negative volumes.

Here are some signs of a kook:

  • Paddling with the nose of your board pointing to the sky
  • Displaying a mix of surf stickers on your surfboard
  • Using booties in the summer
  • Not waxing your surfboard
  • Having your fins buried in the sand while riding a wave
  • Performing bizarre and innovative warm up exercises pre-surf
  • Carrying your shortboard your head
  • Taking a photo with a flat ocean as your backdrop
  • Wearing a helmet on a one-foot summer day
  • Wearing boardshorts over or under a wetsuit
  • Practicing pro surfing moves on the beach
  • Taking an exceptionally low stance in whitewater
  • Showcasing original traction pad placements
  • Paddling for closeout waves
  • Waxing the nose of your board
  • Putting on goggles
  • Forgetting your fins
  • Paddling with your chin on the board
  • Forgetting to use a leash when in a crowded lineup
  • Ditching your surfboard
  • Ignoring channels, charging right through breaking whitewater
  • Letting go of your board while at the front of whitewater
  • Wearing a leash right back to your car
  • Tring to throw a whitewash aerial
  • Pumping enthusiastically for speed while on the flats
  • Paddling simultaneously with both arms
  • Calling fins "skegs"
  • Nosediving and allowing the board to hit someone
  • Catching whitewater rollers

If you have found yourself saying “I do not need a leg rope”, but you lose your board more than your ego can count, you’re a kook.

The issue of leg rope cannot be emphasized enough. It is quickly becoming a fad for would be surfers on very crowded beaches to not wear one.

The only times it might be okay not to wear one is if there is absolutely no one else in sight. If you were alone and someone paddles out, please paddle in, put on your leggie and paddle back out.

The excellent leg ropes available these days keep you from losing your board but also prevent your board from hitting someone else and injuring them, sometimes very badly.

Let’s Summarize: The Difference Between a Kook & a Grom?

Just because you’re starting out as a surfer doesn’t make you a kook.

Surfers can be referred to as kooks at any skill level so long as they have an exaggerated view of their level of skill. An intermediate surfer trying to surf an expert spot during a huge day using the wrong equipment definitely qualifies to be called a kook.

While groms are novice surfers, mostly under 18 in age, who are just starting out in the sport and most likely trying to learn the right thing to do, kooks are pretenders who are either incapable or disinterested in doing things the right way. They are instead more interested in showing off.