Surfing Perfection

By Lola V.

Admit it. Surfing either intrigues you, or you’ve never heard of it. How do people stand on a board in the middle of wild waves and somehow steer it with their feet? How are you supposed to paddle your board out far enough if there are constant waves pummeling you? It’s in fact very, very, very difficult. No wonder it’s not only a recreational activity, but also a pro sport that can be very high paying. You’ve most definitely heard of history-making surfers like Carissa Moore, Bethany Hamilton, or Kelly Slater. Kelly Slater is considered the best surfer of all time. He began his career in 1990, stealing the show in his first competition. He earned his first world title in 1992, one out of his 11. That’s right, he’s an 11 time world champion. Slater has been the youngest and oldest world champion in men’s history- earning his first world title when he was 20, and his latest when he was 39. He has 55 career victories and holds almost every major record in the entire sport of surfing! Even so, despite his surfing history, Slater is almost as well known for his artificial wave pool that was opened in 2015.

So, what’s an artificial wave pool? It’s exactly what it sounds like. It is a huge pool that creates perfect waves to surf. The pool is located in Lemoore, California, (which is 3 hours from LA or San Francisco, 100 miles away from the Pacific Ocean. The 20-acre property was purchased in 2014 by the Kelly Slater Wave Co. after 10 years of work and $30M put into the design. The pool is 2100 feet long and 350 feet wide, so it is a lengthy ride on the waves. If it’s just a pool, how are waves even formed? Here’s where the information gets a bit heavy. A long, train-like, hunk of metal called a hydrofoil is pulled along tracks in the water and the force from it being pulled creates waves! A wave’s shape and size is controlled by adjusting the angle and speed of the hydrofoil. Contours on the bottom of the pool control the shape of the wave’s barrel. Each wave is 6-8 feet high and travels at 20mph. A full ride without getting wiped out lasts 45-60 seconds, which pro surfers will admit can get pretty tiring. After a wave, it takes four minutes for another wave to start up again. Fun fact: An hour long session at the surf ranch costs $10,000- which averages to about $450 per wave. Pretty expensive, right? Since the ranch produces “perfect waves,” it is a good location to hold surfing competitions. The first competition held at the ranch was in 2018, and many have since followed.

Speaking of competitions, Kelly Slater was recently presented with an idea. If the Olympics should continue, Slater’s ranch could be used to hold Olympic surfing. “It’s something that could be done,” Slater noted, “You’ve definitely got my mind thinking it over.” Personally, I think this could be a great idea. The rides would be organized and timed, and everyone would surf the same sized waves. The Olympics would be held in Los Angeles, California. This idea is floating around for the 2028 Olympics, and I believe it would be worth the shot. Obviously, some surfers would prefer to surf in the ocean, and there are some people who believe the surf ranch is not good for the environment (even though Kelly Slater is an environmentalist) but the idea could change the future of Olympic technology. I feel that Slater’s surf ranch is truly a remarkable invention. Although extremely pricey, it’s actually open to the public. Would you want to surf there someday? I know I definitely would.

Student Bio

Lola V.

2021 Summer Program

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