In an era marked by the slashing and folding of print publications and the majority of advertising dollars being diverted to all things digital, starting a brand-new print magazine wouldn’t seem like something someone of a younger generation would strive for. But 11-year-old Tanner Bromberg, the “grom-in-chief” of Grom It magazine—an actual hold-in-your-hands publication created for surfers under the age of 18—believes that print is far from dead.
The idea for creating a grom-specific surf magazine came to Bromberg a few years ago, when she was the ripe old age of 8 and packing for a long flight from Hawaii to South Africa to visit her mother’s side of the family. “I think it was 32 hours of flying, so I asked my dad to buy me a kids surfing magazine,” remembers Bromberg. “We looked everywhere and we couldn’t really find anything, so I was like, ‘Hey why don’t I just make one?’ On the plane ride there I took my journal and started jotting down ideas.”
After returning from South Africa with a journal full of plans for grom-based media domination, she took her ideas back to school on the Big Island and started surveying her fellow second-grade classmates on what they think should be the name of the magazine. “Grom It” apparently hit home for many of the 8 year olds.
“One day she forced Bruce [Bromberg’s father] to the computer and was like, ‘OK, let’s print out my magazine,’” says her mother Kerry. “They wrote out the magazine and printed it on some paper and stapled it together. I honestly thought this is where it was going to go, but she was like, ‘So how do we make this into an actual magazine?’ We were actually Googling ‘how do you make a magazine?’”
One day, while tagging along with her dad at an event for chefs [Bruce works in the restaurant industry], Bromberg met a local publisher who was interested in her idea. “Two days later he called and said, ‘Bruce, I can’t stop thinking about your
daughter’s idea. I’m a publisher, would you like me to publish your magazine? I think it could be a really good idea,’” says Bromberg.
After that call, Bromberg and her parents found a graphic designer to handle the art direction and before they knew it, Grom It was taking form. Bromberg wrote nearly everything, conducted interviews with pro surfers and, with the help of her parents,
even secured brands to advertise in the magazine.
“It was hard to get people to understand that it was literally Tanner’s magazine and that she did it,” says Kerry. “Even when we were talking to advertisers the first round, they thought it was for a school project. They didn’t realize it was for an actual magazine.”
“They would keep looking at my mom and ask her questions,” remembers Bromberg. “And I’d be like, ‘No, I’m right here, I made the magazine.’”
Before Bromberg’s ninth birthday, 5,000 copies of the first issue of Grom It were published with Hawaiian shredder Zoe McDougall making the cover. It was a much more improved version than the stapled-up prototype she first created with her dad,
featuring stories about which pro surfers are most inspiring, which groms to keep an eye on, a lineup of sunscreens that are environmentally friendly and—very pertinent to insatiable teenagers—snacks groms could make to devour between sessions. She even featured a short interview with 11-time World Champ Kelly Slater, who was asked how many pets he owned (one dog, his name is Action).
With no set distributors, Bromberg hauled a little red wagon filled to the brim with her new magazine around to local surf shops, asking if the owners would sell the publication.
“It took the whole selling-girl-scout-cookies to another level,” laughs Kerry, adding that her daughter’s unusual persistence for an 8 year old and involvement in every little decision contributed to the mag actually seeing the light of day. “Tanner was involved in everything, even down to the nitty gritty. There’s this cartoon of a little girl surfing in the magazine, and [at first] she had a larger chest than what groms would have and she was like, ‘Nope, you’ve got to take that chest out, us groms don’t have that large of a chest.’ I just love that Tanner didn’t take no for an answer. Not once did she think she couldn’t do this.”
Bromberg also got a small taste of the inflexible nature of print deadlines, when on a trip to Europe, she and her parents had to do a final round of editing before press while on the road, in the middle of the night. “While we were in Portugal [they had gone to watch the WSL event], we had to go through the final look just before we went to print,” remembers Kerry. “So we had this conference call with the publisher, the editor, the proof reader and ourselves that started at 11 at night because of the time difference. We were going page by page to give final approval before it went to print. Tanner caught three mistakes.”
While most of the iGen population might be obsessed with Instagram and whatever the hell Fortnite is, Bromberg is convinced there are a lot of digital natives craving something tangible to read.
“That’s why Grom It was so liked by kids—we’re wanting more magazines for us to read,” says Bromberg. “If you put Grom It in front of a child that has an iPad, they’ll want to read Grom It, not the iPad. I can almost guarantee it.”
After editing and releasing the second issue, Bromberg now wants the magazine to be available to groms worldwide. “I think being inspired by other groms is awesome,” says Bromberg. “Say, like, a 9 year old sees another 9 year old doing this amazing cutback—they’ll try to up their game to be as good as that 9 year old. I mean, pro surfers today, they were once groms and how did they become these amazing surfers? I think it’s cool to learn about that.”