On the week of September 6-9, Coronado's Dan Mann and some of his buddies from Firewire Surfboards, trekked up to Lemoore to meet with World Surf League champion Kelly Slater — and their mutual friends.
Pro-surfers from all over congregated here at the Surf Ranch, a 500-yard wave pool visualized by Slater. It’s known as “the world’s longest open-barrel artificial wave, and offers different wave shapes and sizes picture perfect and identical.” The Surf Ranch Pro was stop number eight for the league championship tour. Lemoore lies in the Central Valley 300 miles north of San Diego.
Mann’s been shaping surfboards in San Diego since 1996, including Slater’s board ridden in the competition. “It’s a prototype,” Mann said on September 17, “it’s a custom that I shaped for him at our Firewire shop; it’s a 5’9" and a combination of fiberglass and carbon fiber.
“…. in the competition there were no San Diegans but there were a few other shapers from San Diego here.”
The $30 million wave pool took about ten years to develop.
JC Monje, a surf-photographer based out of Imperial Beach and Tijuana, made the five-hour drive up north to Lemoore. “The perfectly formed waves start at 3-4 ft. and reach up to 6.5 ft.; the rides from start to finish last about 45 seconds. After each wave, there’s an approximate four-minute break until the water settles and they give a 30-second countdown until the start of the next wave.”
On the surf ranch videos, a train looking contraption can be seen moving along side the banks that surround the giant wave pool. The “train” is the top portion of the “machine that creates the wave; it’s called a foil,” Mann said. “They can change the pitch of the foil and they can change the speed that it gets drawn along the pool.”
I asked Mann if he’ll make changes to the shaping of Slater’s next board.
“Me and him (Slater) talked a lot that night,” Mann said, “There’s some shapers that jumped right in trying to make a board for a wavepool specifically, but I don’t think it’s going to evolve that way ….”
“I think this (Surf Ranch) could be the [practice] spot for the Olympics,” said fellow-San Diegan Kirk Max.
But it’s not just the surfers competing in this type of surf-environment.
Surfing will debut in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
“What the wave pool does is it really isolates their athleticism and skill,” Mann said, “so there’s no distraction from it in term of waves coming and lack of predictability.”
Maurice is a San Marcos resident that’s been bodyboarding and surfing for 21 years; he attended Lemoore High School, about a mile away from the ranch.
“I believe that [bodyboarders and drop-knee bodyboarders] would be able to perform multiple maneuvers on a consistent basis [at the Surf Ranch], if not more,” Maurice said.
“There’s already been a bodyboarder that has ridden that wave, however, he only appeared to be a novice rider. I recently saw online that Mike Stewart, the godfather of bodyboarding, was invited to ride the Lemoore wave.”
In May, video footage of champion skateboarder Tony Hawk and champion snowboarder Shaun White surfaced. The video depicted both San Diego originals getting barreled in Slater’s wave pool. “Getting so(rta) pitted at #WSLsurfranch …. I promise to stalk the Surf Ranch gates respectfully in the future,” Hawk captioned his Instagram video.