Organizer Phil Jackson, left, with participants at a recent O’Neill Grom Tour stop. (Photos courtesy of Phil Jackson) By Tim KellyCalling all groms!The future of surfing will be on display this weekend when the O’Neill East Coast Grom Tour rolls into Ocean City this Saturday and Sunday, June 1 and 2, at the famed 7th Street Beach.The term “grom” is surfing lingo for a young participant up to about age 17. Originally known as grommets and sometimes called gremmies, the term now is used for youngsters participating in any extreme sport. “This event helps promote and grow the sport by introducing the youngest of ages to both competitive and recreational surfing,” said Heritage Surf and Sport’s Jim Hennessey. “Here in Ocean City and (other local beach towns) we have quite a large group of good young talent. “Hennessey also expects groms from a wide geographic area to descend on 7th Street, the first beach in Ocean City designated for surfing.There has been a steady flow of registrants for Sunday’s contest, the first ever hosted by Ocean City, Hennessey said. In fact, the O’Neill Grom Tour has never before been held in New Jersey. “We started in Florida and worked our way up the coast,” said Phil Jackson, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., who, with Seth Broudy of Virginia Beach, Va., co-directs the tour, which is now in its third year. The tour opened in January in Melbourne Beach, Fla., and then made stops in Jacksonville and in Garden City Beach, S.C. Ocean City was to be the sixth stop on the tour, but a date change of a scheduled Carolina Beach, N.C., event to later in June moved Ocean City up to fifth stop on the schedule.Braedon Kopek, a surfer from Flagler Beach, Fla., shreds at a recent O’Neill Grom Tour stop. “We’re stoked to be in New Jersey and we hope people are stoked that we’re here,” Jackson said.They are. According to Hennessey, he expects at least 50 competitors. However, before registration closes, there could be twice that number. “We don’t ever want to turn anyone away for this type of event,” he said. “We will be running (competitions on) two beaches at the same time with two sets of judges.” To register online, visit www.eastcoastgrom.surfsignup.com.Groms will compete in the following categories: boys and girls 10 and under; girls 17 and under; boys 14-17; open shortboard, ages 17 and under boys and girls; boys 11-13; girls open longboard 17 and under; and boys open longboard, ages 17 and under.Parents may also participate with the younger kids by helping to assist and push in their boards.“That’s a great opportunity for the parents to have bonding time in the water with their kids,” said Jackson. “Yes, it’s a contest, but it’s also an event to help expose more people to the sport.”“We invite everybody to come out, even if you’re just curious about competitive surfing and you want to see what it’s all about,” he added. Jackson said he and Broudy wanted to put an East Coast tour together to provide an opportunity for young surfers to be recognized, to win trophies and prizes and even hard cash. Winners at the final tour stop in Cape Hatteras in October will win $500.Ocean City’s great beaches and surf were factors in the resort landing the competition, but so were the town’s capabilities and willingness to make events user and organizer-friendly. Jackson explained that the town’s Skatepark and its embrace of the surfer-skater culture also played a huge role. “We call it the single-board mentality – from surf, to skate to snow,” he said. “Show a kid a pair of skis nowadays and they don’t know what to do with those things on their feet. But they are so accustomed to getting on one board and balancing, they can go from (the ocean to the Skatepark) easily.”Event management also is a big part of landing the tour stop, Hennessey stated. “Really, a town has to have some things in place to be considered to put on such an event,” Hennessey said. “Ocean City is good at it. People working for different surf shops come together because we’re all selling the same product: Ocean City.”O’Neill Grom Tour co-founder Phil Jackson says he is “stoked” for his first trip to O.C.