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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hawai'i's 'groms' bow to 14-year-old girl

By Dayton Morinaga

Carissa Moore, Hawai'i's newly crowned King of the Groms, just completed her freshman year at Punahou School. By placing first in yesterday's contest against more than 60 boys — some of them two years older — she became the first girl to qualify for the annual Quiksilver King of the Groms World Final, which will be held this summer at Capbreton, France.

Hawai'i's new King of the Groms is ... a queen.

Thanks to a gender-busting victory by Carissa Moore, Quiksilver will have to seriously think about changing the name of its annual contest for youth surfers.

Moore defeated more than 60 of Hawai'i's top boys yesterday to win the Quiksilver King of the Groms contest. The one-day event — "grom" is a surfing slang term for a youth competitor — was held at Kewalo Basin, where wave-faces ranged from 4 to 8 feet.

"I think when I surf with the boys I'm a little more relaxed," Moore said. "There's no pressure, and I was just thankful for the opportunity to go out and surf in this contest."

Moore, 14, just completed her freshman year at Punahou School.

As champion of the Hawai'i region, Moore won an expenses-paid trip to represent Hawai'i at the Quiksilver King of the Groms World Final at Capbreton, France, from July 31 to Aug. 5. She is the first girl to advance to the world final in the event's three-year history.

"I've never been to France, so I'd like to go just to see what it's like. It would be a long shot to win, so I would just go there for fun," she said.

The Hawai'i region contest was open to surfers age 16 and younger; Moore was one of three girls in the field of 64.

"Some of these guys are doing men's (professional) events, so for her to keep getting through heats and then come out on top was delightful," said her father, Chris Moore. "But this is her home break and that's one of the reasons why we entered this one.

"Here at Kewalos, she can match what the boys do because she surfs here so often."

Moore has proved it before. In a grom contest last year at Kewalo Basin, she beat the boys in a 14-and-under division.

"I think this one was bigger," her father said. "This one was for 16s, and she's still 14."

Moore won yesterday's contest with a wave in the closing seconds of the final. The contest followed a unique format in that the surfers were only scored on one wave per heat.

With time winding down, Moore paddled into a small wave and completed a difficult slash off the top before carving her way to shore. The judges rewarded her with a score of 6.33 (out of 10).

"It wasn't the greatest of waves, but I tried to surf it the best I could," Carissa said.

"I was getting nervous because it was getting down to the end and I didn't have a score. I think I just got lucky with that last one."

Albee Layer of Maui placed second with a 6.0. Layer, who is 16 and just completed his sophomore year at King Kekaulike High, represented Hawai'i at the King of the Groms World Final in 2005.

"I'm upset at myself," he said. "I caught a horrible wave in the final."

Layer said there is no shame or embarrassment in losing to Moore.

"She rips, I know that," he said. "I did this contest last year and she beat me last year, too."

Twelve-year-old Luke Hitchcock of Kaua'i, who was one of the youngest surfers in the field, placed third. Ford Archbold of O'ahu's North Shore was fourth.

In March, Moore placed second in a top-tier women's professional contest in Australia. She is already the most decorated surfer in the history of the National Scholastic Surfing Association with nine career championships.

Carissa will remain at Punahou until her graduation in 2010, her father said.

"We still have a few years to decide what's ahead," Chris Moore said. "There's no rush to push her into anything she's not ready for."

Carissa may not accept the trip to France because of a scheduling conflict. The winner in France will receive a spot in a top-tier professional men's contest, and could possibly surf against world champion Kelly Slater and top Hawai'i pros Andy and Bruce Irons.

"We're delighted with what she's doing, but to try and set her up against the best men in the world because of what she did today wouldn't be fair to her," her father said.


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