In the middle of an alfalfa field, Surf Ranch lures world-class riders to world-class waves
Pismo Beach surfer Walt Cerny was one of the lucky ones.
Cerny, who runs the Still Frothy Surf Festival through his nonprofit organization that benefits the local surfers, was among a select group of about 300 people invited by surfing legend and 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater to witness the future of surfing in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley.
It’s there, on the outskirts of Lemoore, where Kelly Slater Wave Co. developed advanced wave-making technology to create a surfer’s paradise on an old water ski competition facility more than 100 miles from the ocean.
The result — a perfectly smooth, 6-foot barreling wave that rolls seemingly forever on a 2,000-foot pond.
Slater, Cerny and many of the top surfers in the world were at the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch on Tuesday for a test event put on by the World Surf League (WSL), now the owner of the wave pool.
“We have all the best surfers in the world, probably the most elite field ever compiled for a specialty event,” Slater said in a Facebook Live video.
Video of the event, run much like a typical WSL surfing event with announcers and a video board, flooded social media. World Champion John John Florence along with top pros Filipe Toledo, Mick Fanning, Kanoa Igarashi, Gabriel Medina — and even Slater himself — took their turns on the wave during the “Future Classic.”
“This is a research and development exercise that allows all the stakeholders involved in any future event to understand the wide array of opportunities available,” the WSL wrote on its website. “Everyone from competitors, organizers, judges, broadcasters, sponsors and even a delegation of the sport’s founders are on hand to witness the technology that will have a dramatic effect on the future of surfing’s evolution.”
Cerny shared video and wrote about his experience Wednesday on his Instagram page.
“Still speechless after such an amazing day,” Cerny wrote. “No matter if you’re catching a 400 yard wave at Kelly’s (no I didn’t) or catching a 4 yard wave at Pismo (yes I will) we are truly blessed as surfers. Thanks to all again who made yesterday incredible and especially to Kelly for his determination to create the 8th wonder of the world.”
WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt hinted the Surf Ranch could be the site of a future event.
“The WSL intends to learn a lot today,” Goldschmidt said Tuesday. “How this technology can be applied to live competition, how the surfers perform, how waves are scored, how we cover in broadcast, the overall experience that we can create and what it feels like to witness this kind of surfing.”
At this point, the Lemoore facility is not open to the public, but WSL Vice President of Global Brand Identity Dave Prodan told The Tribune on Wednesday that the first event is scheduled to take place at the Surf Ranch in early May 2018.
Igarashi, 19, of Huntington Beach, said he liked the consistency of the wave.
“It’s cool to have that certainty. It’s 8:37 — you’re going to catch a wave,” Igarashi told the Fresno Bee.
Adam Fincham, a professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at USC who is an expert in geophysical fluid dynamics, designed the machine that creates the wave, according to the Bee. The newest version, which creates both left and right waves with varying sections, consists of a plow-like hydrofoil in the water that is moved quickly on a rail.
“This is still a prototype facility,” Fincham said. “You can’t make it easy. You have to have some level of difficulty. More variability makes it more challenging for professional athletes.”