Wilbur By The Sea. Photo: Joleen Skerk; Just a Blink Photography.

Name: Tommy Grooms 

Born: March 2, 1987 

Local Surf Break: Ponce Inlet, FL 

Sponsor: Mad Dog Surf Shop

Travels: Costa Rica(x2), Spain, France, Mexico(x3), Ecuador, Hawaii, Puerto Rico(x12), North Carolina(x3), and I lived in California for 3 years traveling the entire coastline several times in search of new waves. 

First Surfboard: My very first surfboard was a Mad Dog shaped for Kevin Reeves that my mom and step-dad bought for me when I was 11. I had already been surfing on an old board that my mom had laying around the house growing up, but when I got my own board, I started surfing EVERYDAY! Then, I started competing only a few months later and was able to make the final of my very first event. Back then, I was competing along side names like Jeremy Johnston, Niels Schweitzer, Devon Trescher, Pat Deal, and Jesse Hielman (all you of whom still rip!). 

From left to right: A.J. Miller, Robby Grooms, Tommy Grooms. Photo: Sandy

Most Memorable Wave: I wish I could say that my first wave was my most memorable, but the truth is, I donʼt remember starting to surf. Iʼve been surfing longer than I can recall… but when I think of my most memorable wave, it would be during my time in Ecuador a couple years ago. I caught a bomb during the biggest and best swell of the year and was a ride that Iʼll never forget. Iʼve had a few moments like that, that really stand out to me. Another was on a really big swell in Puerto Rico where I paddled out by myself and caught three of the biggest waves that I have ever ridden! 

Tommy Grooms in Ecuador. Photo: Sebastian Sanchez

Scariest Moment Surfing: Thatʼs an easy one… I almost drowned during a Corona Pro event at Middles in Puerto Rico a few years back. The waves were really big and I got caught inside by a set, broke my board, and then got cartwheeled across the reef for an entire 5 wave set. I barely made it back to the beach with about 200 spectators watching it all happen. I was pretty rattled after that one, but luckily I had a friend from Ecuador named Sebastian Sanchez that talked me into getting right back on the horse! Later that day, I bagged a few bombs at Wilderness to get the jitters out and put my mind back where it should be. Confidence is crucial when surfing big waves, and with over 20 years experience, I have no shortage of that! 

Biggest Fear: My biggest fear is not having the ability to surf. I’ve been very fortunate to only have one major injury since I started surfing. Although, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time… When I was 18, I had plans to move to Hawaii after graduating high school. I had a friend of the family offer for me to live with him rent free for two months on the North Shore of Oahu. I hoped to be able to enter a few contests and make a name for myself as a talented young surfer. About a month before I was scheduled to embark on that mission, I shattered my wrist while skateboarding. The doctor told me that I would be in a cast for the next 6-8 months and may require surgery after that… so I had to cancel my plans and sad to say, I still have not made it to the North Shore (although I did live on Kauai for over two months). After having my dreams shattered along with my wrist, I ended up cutting my own cast off after only two months, and required a temporary cast to surf for the next two years! As bad as that was, I’m grateful that it wasn’t worse and that I still have the ability to surf… because I honestly don’t know what my life would be without that outlet.

Life Outside of Surfing: I  work a full time job as an irrigation technician on a golf course. Luckily, theyʼre very supportive of my surfing and allow me to take time off for traveling and competing. I donʼt go out to bars or clubs. Itʼs just not my thing… I realized at a young age that I didnʼt want to get wrapped up in the local party scene. In a sense, my entire life has always revolved around the waves. If itʼs good, I surf. When itʼs not, I work hard so that Iʼm ready when it starts to fire! 

Favorite Surf Trip: I bought an old RV in my late 20ʼs and drove it to California with plans of a two month vacation. I ended up staying and traveling the coastline from Baja to Oregon for two years, searching for perfect waves in uncrowded line-ups… I found what I was looking for and was able to make some really great friends along the way! 

Tommy in North California. Photo: John Chambers

Localism and Regulation: We have to have it! Respect is everything. Iʼm a very proud Ponce Inlet local. And Iʼm also a very proud regulator of that lineup! After more than 20 years, I know who surfs out there on a regular basis and who doesnʼt. Iʼm also very familiar with the unwritten rules. Anyone and everyone is welcome to surf there, but you must respect the people that have put in their time. Every surf spot has a ladder to climb. Start at the bottom and work your way up. Thatʼs the only way to do it… If I decide that I want to race cars, you wonʼt see me in the Daytona 500. Youʼll find me at the NSB speedway trying to hone my skills (just an example). Surfing is the same way. Start at a beach break, graduate to a pier, then come to Ponce and start working your way up that ladder!  Anyone can do it, and I appreciate the people that do it right. If you donʼt normally surf Ponce, donʼt go there on the best day of the year expecting the best waves. Know your place, show respect, and youʼll feel all the love and good vibes that we all share on the best days! 

Tommy at Ponce. Photo: Darin Back

The Future: You know where to find me… as far as surfingʼs future is concerned, we have a ton of local talent coming up; The Pervais boys, lil Victor, Grady Grom, Kieran Ajay, Zoey, and all the Lopez grommets just to name a few! I love watching all of these groms progress through the ranks and I look forward to seeing what they become. Iʼve been judging some of our local ESA contests and am looking forward to doing more of that. I think we need good judges like myself and Jesse Hielman that understand the progression of the sport and how difficult it is to do certain maneuvers in the most critical part of the wave. I donʼt like being judged by surfers that canʼt do half of the tricks theyʼre judging. That really bothers me! So, instead of just complaining, I hope to be a part of the solution. 

Tommy with the local groms. Photo: Joleen Skerk; Just a Blink Photography 

Special Thanks: Bernie and Rita Crouch (Mad Dog Surf Shop) has supported me and my surfing for over 20 years now. Honestly, I may not still be surfing if it werenʼt for Mad Dog taking me under his wing! I owe it all to him. I also need to thank my mom, Teresa Cameron, and my step dad, Marty Dobos, for making many sacrifices to ensure that I could travel and compete at a young age. 

All of them have shown me unconditional support my entire life and I truly do appreciate it! Iʼd also like to give a big shout out to all of our local photographers that support us and capture our best moments; James Buffington with Natureʼs Wave of Photography (R.I.P.), Joleen Skerk with Just A Blink Photography, Victor with Sunglow Surf, Drew Duncan with Pipeline TV and many more. From all of us local surfers; WE THANK YOU!!! 

Tommy and Joleen Skerk. Photo: Miguel Hine
Tommy surfing in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Joleen Skerk; Just a Blink Photography 
Tommy at Ponce Inlet. Photo: Will Vogt.
Tommy at Ponce Inlet. Photo: Joleen Skerk; Just a Blink Photography .
Tommy at Daytona Beach Week Airshow. Photo: Mark Bochiardy
Tommy in Puerto Rico. Photo: Osiris Tores
Tommy in Ecuador. Photo: Sebastian Sanchez

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  1. Tommy’s a great surfer who teaches the local groms. 🤙 yeaaah, Tommy! 📸😉I watched him surf in May of 2020!


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