If you are new to surfing or other board sports like snowboarding or skateboarding you may have heard the terms grom and kook used. You may not know what they are or what differentiates one from the other.
A grom is a newbie surfer or someone new to another board sport. A kook is a surfer or other board sporter with a bad attitude. The difference between a grom and a kook is their actions not their skill level. Not everyone will agree with us on that differentiation, but we stand by it.
Let’s explore more about what it means to be a grom, what it means to be a kook, and the differences between the two.
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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.
Grom – Short For Grommet
The word “Grom” originated from the word “Grommet”, generally refers to a young surfer more or less eighteen years old who is just getting started in the sport. “Grom” can also be used to describe an older newbie surfer, or even a skater, skier, snowboarder or anyone taking up an extreme sport.
The Origin of Grom (We Think)
It is thought that the origin the word “grom” was the 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 a little fun at them. The term stuck and has now the word “grom” is now used by the whole surfing community.
Grom – First A Surfing Term, Now An Extreme Sport Term
The word “grom” has recently been extended to other board and extreme sports like snowboarding and skateboarding. Basically any young or newbie surfer, or board rider of any kind or extreme sport practitioner can be called a grom if they show some stoke and respect for their chosen sport.
What is a Kook?
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, It’s A Kook
You can spot ’em a mile away – kooks! Kooks can be easily spotted by their lack of knowledge and/or care of social norms when it comes to surfing, skating, snowboarding and other sports.
Kooks take established surf etiquette and just disregard it. This disregard for the rules doesn’t make them a rebel, it makes them dangerous.
- Kooks don’t look where they are going. They don’t seem to care if you are already up and riding. They just go.
- Kooks paddle straight out through the break.
- Kooks toss their surfboard away when they don’t want to duck dive instead of holding onto it regardless of who is behind them.
Posers vs Kooks
Someone who pretends to surf (or skate or snowboard) is typically referred to as a poser, someone who acts or dresses like a surfer to impress but who don’t surf themselves. With all the movies about surfing including the ones on Netflix and Amazon, surfing was bound to go mainstream sooner or later.
But posers are not kooks. Posers don’t cause accidents in the water, because, you know, they are posers and don’t surf.
Can Kooks Surf? Sort of.
A kook can also be described as a surfer who has an inflated perception of his or her surfing (snowboarding, skating, etc) skills and whose lack of knowledge, particularly concerning surf ethics, has the high probability of interfering with the enjoyment and safety of the other surfers in the water.
Basically, they think their wipeout is a one in a million mistakes, but really it is their specialty move. Kooks are not known to be self-aware. They don’t even know they are kooks.
We are waiting for the results of the research, but we bet the kooks in the water are the same ones who float into your lane when you are driving.
Do All Surfers Start Out As Kooks?
A novice surfer will not necessarily go through being a kook first. Some are groms at heart.
When starting out, it is expected that you blunder as you learn, but it is also expected that you take note of how your actions impact your fellow surfers and the beach so you can move from kook to grom quickly.
Don’t Be Called A Kook
When it comes right down to it, it’s all about how a someone acts that makes them either a kook or a grom.Generally speaking, kooks are rude to fellow surfers and carry an attitude that speaks negative volumes. Here are some actions of a kook:
- Paddling with the nose of your board pointing to the sky. This is OK on your first day, but not on day 2.
- Displaying an overboard of surf stickers on your surfboard, especially the deck of the surfboard.
- Using booties in the summer.
- Not waxing your surfboard.
- Asking to borrow “some wax” and giving back a useless sliver of wax.
- Riding a wave into the sand.
- Performing bizarre and innovative warm up exercises pre-surf.
- Carrying your shortboard over your head.
- Taking a photo with a flat ocean as your backdrop to promote your “surfing skills”.
- Wearing a helmet on a one-foot summer day.
- Wearing boardshorts over a wetsuit.
- Practicing surfing moves on the beach over and over again.
- Not using a leash in a crowded lineup.
- Ditching your surfboard.
- Ignoring channels between breaks when paddling out and charging right through breaking whitewater where surfers are dropping in.
- Letting go of your surfboard instead of controlling it or learning to duck dive.
- Wearing your surf leash back to your car.
- Pushing beyond your surfing limits too far and too fast causing dangerous situations for other surfers.
- An intermediate surfer trying to surf an expert spot during a huge day using the wrong equipment definitely qualifies to be called a kook.
- Not giving any respect to the older surf crew in the water.
- Wearing the brightest colors they can find to bring attention to themselves but not having the skills to satisfy the attention.
- Disregarding safety because their wave is more important any other surfers’ wave.
- Taking themselves too seriously.
Can Professional Surfers Be Kooks?
As we stated, skill level alone does not prevent you from being a kook. Your actions can easily make you a kook, even if it is for just one wave. Here is a video of Gabriel Medina kooking out at T-Street in San Clemente, California. He drops in on a fellow surfer and gets a splash to the face in return. We like Gabby, but in this case he was a kook.
Let’s Summarize: The Difference Between a Kook & a Grom?
Just because you’re a novice 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 surfing skills or don’t respect other surfers.
Groms are novice surfers who are just starting to surf and are trying to learn the right thing to do. Groms have stoke to share. Kooks leach stoke from other surfers.