Photo by Sean Rowland of the World Surf League
Written by David Castellon
Rural Kings County may seem just about the last place you’d think of as a surfing hot spot, but the World Surf League thinks differently.
In fact, the organization has added its WSL Surf Ranch Facility south of Lemoore — where artificial waves are generated in a former Jet Ski lake — to its WSL Championship Tour, a competition scheduled for Sept. 5-9, 2018, that will include many of the world’s best surfers.
The facility, developed by pro surfing legend Kelly Slater, had been called “Kelly Slater Wave Company’s Surf Ranch” when it began operating in late 2015, but it was renamed after the Los Angeles-based World Surfing League bought a majority interest last year.
The Lemoore facility, is a prototype for the business, which is preparing to build another wave machine in Florida and is being considered for use in the Olympics once surfing debuts as a sport in the competition during the 2020 games in Tokyo.
As a result of including the Surf Ranch on the WSL tour, another competition has been taken off — the Hurley Pro and Swatch Women’s Pro at Lower Trestles on San Onofre State Beach, near San Clemente, the Orange County Register reports.
Slater remains the face of the company, and in September he hosted an invitation-only event for current surf professionals and icons of the sport to try out his wave device.
“Based on the results of our test event this year and the feedback from surfers training at the facility throughout the season, next September’s event has the potential to be something special for both surfers and fans,” Sophie Goldschmidt, WSL’s CEO, said in a press release. “We’re only scratching the surface of how this technology can be applied and it is completely game-changing for the sport.”
“It’s incredible what the WSL and [Kelly Slater Wave Co.] teams have developed at Surf Ranch over the past year and California’s Central Valley now boasts a world-class wave,” Kieren Perrow, WSL’s Commissioner, stated in the release. “This technology, and its ability to deliver high-quality waves at any location in the world, opens so many possibilities for how we can complement and evolve the competitive experience.”
The release also quoted Adrian Buchan, a competitor and athlete representative, who said, “What the team has created is hard to fathom at first — a perfect, 400-yard-long, bi-directional wave in the middle of rural California.
“The Ocean will always be our home, but as we grow, having the opportunity to showcase and share the stoke of surfing to new audiences and schedule with pinpoint accuracy the huge match-ups and drama of the WSL is really exciting.”
And there could be more surfing competitions in the works, as operators of the Surf Ranch filed back in April a request with Kings County seeking a conditional-use permit that includes allowing up to six surfing competitions a year at the facility at 18556 Jackson Ave. Crowds of up to 8,000 spectators could attend.
Currently, an environmental review is being done, and no date has been set for when the Kings County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to consider the request, said Sandy Roper, principal planner for the Kings County Community Development Agency.