LEMOORE, Calif. — The “perfect wave” hosts its first surf competition this weekend, and it could start a shift in the sport.
The Surf Ranch in Lemoore, just south of Fresno, will hold the Founder’s Cup starting Saturday, featuring 25 of the world’s best surfers in team format.
“We chose it, to be honest, because this was a real experiment,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, the CEO of World Surf League. “When we started working on this wave years ago, we didn’t know how it was going to work out, and we also wanted it to be pretty secret.”
Designed by 11-time world champion Kelly Slater, the Surf Ranch produces a perfect wave every time.
The ranch boasts 700-yard artificial waves powered through solar power and electricity, generating a wave that can go both left and right, every three minutes or so.
“It’s basically a foil that pushes the water and that creates the shape of a wave,” said Goldschmidt. “So the foil goes back and forth and you can adjust it. You can adjust the speed of the wave, you can adjust the height and it’s a very complicated hydraulic system.”
It’s a system surfers say produces the perfect wave.
“It’s even more perfect than what we have in the ocean,” said 2014 world champion Gabriel Medina. “So that’s what makes us excited to surf, because you can practice turns, barrels and airs.”
“You might get two, three, maybe four rides like that in your whole life, as a pro surfer traveling around the world the whole year,” said Kanoa Igarashi, a surfer for Team World. “To have that here, when every single wave is a perfect wave, it’s overwhelming.”
Another first at Surf Ranch will be team-style competition. Five countries with five surfers each will now rely on each other to make it to the final heat.
“It’s so out of our comfort zone,” said Igarashi. “Having the weight of other surfers around you is going to be something we’ve never felt before.”
“I think it’s the future,” said Medina. “I’m really happy to be a part of this and I think surfing is going to the next level.”
For surfers near and far, being a part of the Founder’s Cup in its debut is a special feeling.
“You forget about where you are, you forget about you’re in the middle of nowhere, you forget that it’s fresh water instead of salt water, which is really cool,” said Igarashi. “You click into this instinct of surfing and then when you’re off the wave, you look around and you’re like woah, this is not the ocean, the beach isn’t here and there’s no sand. It’s a pretty surreal feeling.”