The world’s top surfers soon will be competing at a contest hundreds of miles away from an ocean.
The World Surf League Friday morning, Nov. 17, announced that there will be a new stop for the Championship Tour, in Lemoore in Central California, at the much-buzzed about man-made wave created by 11-time world champion Kelly Slater.
Slater confirmed the existence of his Wave Ranch in Dec. 2015, after considerable speculation within the surfing world. Since then, select surfers have ridden the technology, which creates hollow, long waves.
“We’re only scratching the surface of how this technology can be applied and it is completely game-changing for the sport,” said WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt, in a statement.
Earlier this year, some lucky surfers got to test out the wave at an impromptu event, with about 150 people invited to surf in or watch the super secret gathering.
But unlike the test event in September, the one announced Friday will count toward points for world title ratings.
The new event is scheduled for September, 2018, typically the time surfers compete at the Hurley Pro event at Lower Trestles south of San Clemente. The full schedule of surf events for next year has yet to be released, so it’s unclear if the Lemoore contest will take place before, after, or instead of the Trestles event.
Kieren Perrow, WSL Commissioner, said the technology and its ability to deliver high-quality waves at any location in the world creates new possibilities to evolve the competitive experience.
The wave delivers a predictable, 400-yard-long wave that goes in two directions to form both a left- and right-hand wave. It’s a much different experience than in the ocean, which can be fickle at times and determine the outcome of a heat while surfers have to adapt to what Mother Nature delivers.
Huntington Beach’s Kanoa Igarashi, expected to re-qualify for the tour next year, has had the chance to surf the wave several times.
“Obviously, the ocean does its amazing thing, too,” Igarashi said in a previous interview. “But there are times (the ocean) takes a break and gets small. The machine pumps waves.”
Though a handful of artificial waves already exist, Slater’s wave is said to mimic the ocean’s waves the best, rather than having water pumping toward a surfer like a river wave does.
Artificial wave pools have also been a hot topic as surfing prepares to debut in the Olympics, as a way to include the sport when the games take places in areas without an ocean.
“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,” surfer Adrian Buchan said in a statement.
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