LEMOORE, Calif., - The surf moved nearly 100 miles inland Saturday to the Surf Ranch for the World Surf League's Founder's Cup.
The highly anticipated competition debuts Kelly Slater's "perfect wave," and has the potential to impact the future of surfing, a notion surfers welcome.
"I don't know how we could have found this place," said Matt Wilkinson, a surfer for Team Australia. "It's a pretty weird spot to put it but I think it makes it -- kind of amplifies what it is."
More than 5000 people will pack WSL's Surf Ranch this weekend to watch 25 of the world's top surfers compete for the first time on a man-made wave.
"Honestly, [I'm] a lot more nervous because everyone's watching that one wave," said Joel Parkinson, the 2012 world champion. "Usually in the ocean it happens so quickly, whereas [here] you have a minute or two to start. Your heartbeat -- it's really hard to stay calm."
At the push of a button, the 700-yard waves give surfers the ability to surf in a controlled environment, another first for the WSL.
"We call it the 'stoke machine,'" said Kelly Slater, an 11-time world champion. "Everyone just has a huge grin on their face and the most common reply is, 'It's just like the ocean, I thought it would be different or whatever and it's just like a real wave.' Our goal was to make a swell that was like a strong swell in the ocean."
"The feeling is the same," said Parkinson. "You're so ecstatic after a wave, you're smiling from ear to ear and that's what they created."
Slater says the best surf experience is still taught in the ocean, and others agree, but say this wave system offers a new dimension to competitive surfing.
"It's really neat to see the possibilities of these wave pools," said Carissa Moore, a three time women's world champion. "I think it will definitely open up the opportunities for people who don't have access to the beach."
"It's definitely going to change surfing forever," said Wilkinson. "Once everyone starts practicing, I think the level of performance is going to rise."
As the sport continues to evolve, so too will the surfers, which is why the consensus is unanimous. Wave pools are here to stay.
"It will bring surfing to the world rather than just the people around the coastlines," said Wilkinson. "Waiting for the ride tide, waiting for the wind, waiting for the swell. It's going to make it much more accessible."
"If I could pick one thing to do the rest of my life everyday it would be to go surfing," said Slater. "But to be able to share and see people happy with something you created is a very fulfilling feeling I guess."