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 (a grom), and a show-off who wants to pretend they know (you know, a kook).
Let’s get into what a grom is, what a kook is, and the differences between the two.
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 and toss their surfboard away 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.
But posers are not kooks. Posers don’t cause accidents in the water, because, you know, they don’t surf.
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.
Kooks Can Surf? Sort of.
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 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.
How To Win Friends, Influence Surfers & Not Be Called A Kook
You will notice surf kooks everywhere – carrying surfboards in 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.
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.
Actions That 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 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 board instead of controlling it or learning to duck dive.
- Wearing a leash right back to your car.
- Pushing beyond your limits way too far and too fast.
- 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 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.
- Taking themselves too seriously.
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 and / 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.