This coming weekend marks the 25 th anniversary of the Act Belong Commit Gracetown Grommets junior surfing competition. The event is held in memory of the nine lives lost in the 1996 Gracetown cliff collapse.
The competition has a record 75 entrants this year, including the grandchildren of Lindsay Thompson, who died in the tragedy.
Lindsay was an early pioneer of junior surf coaching and competitions in Margaret River. His inspiration was to help kids not only learn to surf, but progress their surf skills as well. He was probably the first person to organise a girls surf squad in the region, which his son Neil later continued.
Skye Thompson, Lindsay’s daughter and current club Secretary for Cowaramup Bay Boardriders who host the event, is excited to see two of her children, Fynn and Reef, compete in the event.
“I get to watch my own children at a break that my dad taught me to surf in. It’s just pure joy” Skye says.
Known for a positive and happy outlook on life, Skye recalls what helped her the most after the tragedy.
“We were surrounded by so much friendship and love in the community, and we were given so much support. We had counselling at both the Primary School and High School. It really helped being able to talk about it and be really open. I was never alone. Tragedy can be awful when you’re alone, but having a caring community around you helps you so much.”
“Going back to the ocean also helped enormously. I struggled a few years after, but re-found the ocean and realised it was so powerful, healing and fun. That really helped as well.”
With several more recent tragedies in the South West community, Skye’s insight is of great value.
“We were allowed to grieve and were given those opportunities to remember, grieve and acknowledge. We can distract ourselves, but if you just keep distracting, you don’t let yourself feel. You don’t want to just carry it.”
“Importantly though, we were also allowed to get on with our lives and be normal kids. As time goes on, you grow to realise that you are allowed to be happy. It actually makes me really appreciate every day.”
The Act Belong Commit Gracetown Grommets event will take place on the most suitable single day of either Saturday 11 September or Sunday 12 September. It is expected to run at either Huzzas or South Point in Cowaramup Bay.
More information on the Cow Bay Boardriders and the Gracetown Groms can be found at: www.cowbay.com.au