They’re four feet tall. They’ve got way too much energy. They’ll huck off anything with little to no regard for personal safety. They’re silly, their voices squeak, and they ask too many friggin’ questions. Snowboarding would suck without them.

What exactly is a grommet? To find the true meaning of any word, it must first be traced to its origin. While it’s generally accepted that the word’s origin is from surf-culture vernacular, and used by spin-off subcultures to describe a little kid who rips, there’s more to the story. The term “grommet,” as slang, was first coined in the 40s by U.S. sailors. I don’t know how it came about, but they didn’t use it to describe an amped kid. Ask an old-timer what a grommet is and you’ll get the real definition: “little shit.”

Exactly.

This article was inspired by two of the biggest sources of happiness in my snowboarding life-Flint and Jeremy, two obnoxious munchkin-ripper comedians from the town of Jackson Hole. On bad riding days they can usually be found mercilessly harassing the employees of whatever snowboard shop they happen to wander into: “Hey, what’s this? This is free, right? Who’s that guy? Is he sponsored? What kind of board/jacket/beanie/boot/shirt is that? Can I put this sticker here? Hey … ” On good days, though, they can be found in liftline, right behind you-asking the same damn questions.

Throughout the course of putting this article together, my list of mini-heroes has grown. From kids like Macy and Shelby Price, Jamie Cuzzocreo, Sid Rothstein, and Jared McCarthy, who hucked for TransWorld cameras with so much heart, but didn’t end up getting any pictures for their efforts-to kids like Alex Lund, who blew off an interview to play paintball with his friends, and who laid down without question when E said, “Lay on this spine. I’m going to jump over you on my skateboard.” He even threw a shaka. So rad. Then there are kids like Nicki Larsen (among others) who I’ve never met but have listened to people twice their age recount endless stories, raving about what rulers they are.

Who knows why these yapping midgets are so completely addicting. Maybe it’s because they ride better than most of us ever did at their age. The mind boggles to conceive of the level that snowboarding will be pushed to when they grow into their stronger adult bodies. In Jackson there’s a hairball death-drop called S&S Couloir. While there is a constant line of glory-seekers hucking into Corbets Couloir, next-door S&S sits virtually untouched-it’s gnarly. Flint dropped S&S when he was twelve years old. Jeremy made my list when he cut off six dudes twice his size lined up to hit a kicker, stomped a huge method, and rode off without looking back once.

Everybody needs a pint-size in their crew. Grommets are the ones who put smiles on the faces of the old and the bitter. They don’t worry about what photographer’s in town, or if their vid section is going to kill it at the premiere. All they care about is riding. They’re the ones who memorize every photo in this magazine, who know the name of every trick and which snowboarders do them best. They’re the ones who can make us scream out an enthusiastic “Hell yeah!” about a five-foot air-to-flat. They’re the ones who make us remember that snowboarding is fun-especially when their reponse to a gurning about throwing high fives mid morning on a Wednesday is a giggle followed by, “Um, I think school got, like, cancelled today … or something.”

Long live the mini-shreds.

-Melissa Larsen