Team Taranaki earned a lineup to themselves in pumping conditions at Meatworks during the South Island Grom Series Kaikoura Grom comp earlier this month. The team paddled out to pay their respects to Jeremy Grainger who passed away earlier in the week.
They soon had the peaks to themselves as the sun burst through and the ocean glassed off. You could almost feel Jeremy egging the surfers on as they had a session that was nothing short of magical.
“The paddle out was for my best friend, Jeremy Grainger, who sadly passed away this week to suicide,” explains Kane Rowson, who leads the Taranaki Grom Squad alongside Paul McFetridge. “They did a paddle out at Back Beach on the same day back home and had 200 surfers in the water. We had six groms down here at the comp and we decided that we needed to do the same here down in Kaikoura.”
With a tear in his eye Kane describes Jeremy’s place in surfing in Taranaki and throughout the country.
“Jezza has been on the comp scene for a long time, both regionally and also nationally,” Kane shares. “He’s a bit of an old war dog, really. He pops up everywhere and gets into the rashy and sometimes didn’t do so well, but then he had some glimpses at nationals where he managed to make finals in the age group divisions. But wherever Jezza went he was an ultra positive man. He was so humble and brought an amazing vibe to the water. He was always chahooing people and was amazing with the grommets. It’s a sad, sad loss for us.”
The loss of Jeremy comes in the same week as another Taranaki surfer, Brad McKinlay, also succumbed to mental health issues.
“It’s sad because no one wins, and we’ve got to make sure that the next generation of New Zealanders doesn’t have to go through what we’ve been through in the last 10 or so years, statistic wise,” Kane offers.
“The best thing about Jezza was that he was so humble,” Kane said. “He knew he wasn’t the best surfer in the world. He worked with the talent that he did have, and he refined himself to a very good competitive surfer. He never tried to talk himself up. What he had is what he had, and some days, man, he was unbeatable by anyone in New Zealand. He was amazing. It’s just super sad that his son Corban and his wife and two young kids, Luka and Paige, are now left without a father. But the Taranaki community will get around them.”
Kane and Pauly coach a squad of about 20 groms in Taranaki with around 15 of those on the national circuit at the moment.
“We go to the comps and we give them heat drill work to do, give them a little heads up on what’s happening in the ocean, and try and pass some wisdom to them,” Kane explains. “And we’re just starting to get some good results out of that at the moment.”
“We set it up two years ago because we weren’t really succeeding on a national level,” he admits. “We knew we had groms back in Taranaki who were surfing well, but for some reason they’d go to a national comp and they were trying to do it by themselves, or just with their parents. We just weren’t getting the results we thought we could do. So, we just put some structure to it and tried to create a family environment.”
“We’re big on trying to create good humans, not just good surfers.”
He said they were an incredibly passionate bunch, though Kane admitted they were sometimes too passionate around the judges’ tower when they feel things have got wrong.
“We train so hard with the groms, and they’ve put so much into it and that’s why we are a little bit fiercely staunch when we think that one of the kids has been hard done by,” Kane explains. “But that’s surfing, and we just debrief that, build a bridge and carry on.”
At 42, Kane, a teacher at New Plymouth Boys’ High School, can still throw some heat on decent wave. He was a standout during their magic session after their paddle out for Jeremy.
“The car park emptied out and we couldn’t believe it – the sun came out as it was setting, it was sheet glass and four-foot peaks,” he shakes his head. “It just happened to be only the Taras crew, plus two free surfers and they were awesome dudes. The kids and us were just trading waves for waves, and everyone was so loose and, I suppose, thoughtful about Jezza after the paddle out. The kids lit it up, it was a really special moment and it made the trip. Regardless of what happened in the comp, that was the trip. It was epic.”
“It was pretty surreal,” Kane adds. “Jezza would’ve been frothing. You would’ve heard him from the car park. He would’ve been that loud cheering people on.”