“Kelly has created a quintessential, perfect wave. And, to be able to get that over and over again is really going to push the envelope for surfing like it’s never been pushed before.” – Gerry Lopez
Kelly Slater only dreamt about a surf ranch. He had it in his thoughts, with all the concepts carefully planned and executed in his mind. Finally, in 2015, the ten-year experiment to create the perfect inland wave happened.
Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch opened the doors of fully functional artificial waves for anyone who wishes to ride a hundred miles of perfect waves. Still, many people ask – how are these magnificent waves formed? Are they rideable? Is it worth it?
This article will take a deeper look at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, and we’ll let you decide for yourself.
The Kelly Slater Wave Company and the Surf Ranch
One of the most famous man-made waves in the world, Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, was ten years in the making. The project transformed an abandoned waterski park in Lemoore, California, into an upscale surf ranch.
His team at the Kelly Slater Wave Co combined cutting-edge science, engineering, and design to develop the most extended and rideable open-barrel artificial wave in the world. What’s best about this “freak of technology” is that it is powered entirely by solar.
The team partnered with PG&E’s (Pacific Gas and Electric) Solar Choice Program that lets clients go 100% solar without installing any solar panel. This technology allowed Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch to pioneer wave technology that supports sustainable power initiatives.
Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch: How It Works
The first thing you need to understand is how the technology used in Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch is far different from those used in wave pools. Unlike Waco Pool’s Perfect Swell Technology that creates three different wave sets, Surf Ranch gives you a single long open-barrel ride.
What the Surf Ranch can compare with is the Wavegarden’s Lagoon and Surf Poel in The Hague. Its system uses a simple plow design where a specially designed submerged foil is pulled down a straight track at high and low velocity.
This pulling motion displaces the water to create a wave that breaks along the wave pool’s specially designed bathymetry or depth of the pool. The large and noisy machine gets adjustments that temper the speed of the plow that affects the wave’s steepness and size.
What makes it different from the Wavegarden’s Lagoon is how the wave only plows a rideable swell on one side of the track. Yet, the Surf Ranch is bi-directional, and it goes in one direction to create lefts and the other direction to create rights.
The Surf Ranch’s pool is 700 meters long and 150 meters wide. It clocks in at 45 seconds, making it the longest of any of the world’s wave pools ever. It generates a wave that ranges from 3 to 6 feet about every two minutes. Then, it takes roughly 3 to 4 minutes for the water to calm between waves.
How To Get In?
The Surf Ranch is still limited, mainly for regular surfers. You can’t show up at the Ranch without any confirmed booking. But, if you get in, there are three ways to surf the pool as an everyday surfer:
- VIP experience
- Hiring the Surf Ranch for the day
- Friends and Family Day
The VIP Experience includes accommodation, merchandise, access to concerts, catering, and two 1-hour surf sessions on the wave pool with all the equipment you need. This all-inclusive deal costs $5,499 and a $182 booking fee. Note that there is no guarantee that you will be the only VIP throughout the day. Thus, you might end up sharing the 1-hr session with other visitors.
The Surf Ranch, if rented for the day, will cost you $50,000 during peak season. Off-season costs are at $35,000. While this option is open to everyday surfers, understand that this price tag could be for groups composed of team riders for a brand, national teams, or training camps.
That’s roughly $415 per wave during high season and $290 during low season!
The costs can be a little intimidating, but you can still surf at the Surf Ranch on special occasions. Kelly Slater, after all, has a good heart and lets staff’s family and friends try out the wave. If you know the right people, you can definitely get in.
Facts and Figures About Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch
This wave pool location 200 miles from the coast and surrounded by dairy farms holds many facts you will find interesting. Here are some of them.
- Kelly Slater was 14 years old when he first experienced riding in an artificial lake. It was a surfing demo he and his brother Sean made in a small surf pool in Texas.
- It was 2006 when he met up with the British amateur surfer and aerospace engineer Adam Fincham. Adam specialized in geophysical fluid dynamics. He, later on, became the head scientist of Kelly Slater Wave Company.
- One of the potential names for the Surf Ranch was “Kelly Slater Surf Experience.”
- The prototype was unveiled in 2015. It pumped 45-second barreling waves.
- The lake’s contours were designed and perfected with the aid of advanced supercomputers.
- “The Vehicle,” the 100-ton hydrofoils run down a track with the help of more than 150 truck tires. It goes 18 miles per hour.
- The Surf Ranch’s depth that reaches 6.5 feet can be adjusted to fit beginner, intermediate, and advanced surfers.
- The World Surf League bought a significant stake in the Kelly Slater Wave Company in 2016. This move paved the way to the Surf Ranch Pro (later renamed Freshwater Pro), a professional surfing competition held annually at the Surf Ranch.
- The Surf Ranch address is 18556 Jackson Ave, Lemoore, CA 93245.
- By 2026, the Surf Ranch will be more than what it is today. It will be a 155-acre structure with an additional public wave pool and various support facilities.
- The Surf Ranch took almost ten years to finish and cost $30 million in design, development, and building.
- The man-made wave pool offers three sections – 2 performance sections and 1 barrel section.
- It is filled with 15 million gallons of UV and chlorine-treated freshwater.
- The Surf Ranch’s hydrofoils are covered with tarps. This keeps drones from filming it from above.
- The Surf Ranch is entirely solar-powered.
Final Thoughts: Is The Surf Ranch Worth It?
The price tags might have left you intimidated or taken back. But, the high costs are due to a lot of factors. To start, the Kelly Slater Wave Company has poured over $30 million to bring the Surf Ranch into reality.
In short, if you are paying $75,000 for a day at the Surf Ranch, you are not only paying for the marvelous artificial waves. You are also spending money on the research and development that Kelly Slater’s project has attracted.
Then again, if you think about how WSL acquired a major stake in the company, then the Kelly Slater Wave Company would have recouped most, if not all, of its initial investment. In addition, the whole ranch run on solar power can be argued as not losing anything for running and operating.
Is it worth it? Nothing beats natural waves. But, then again, a chance to ride Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch can bring you bragging rights of having been able to ride his waves, be part of a team, or rubbing elbows with some surf pros.