Kelly Slater’s ‘Surf Ranch’ will make waves by hosting its first competition

Artificial wave pioneer Surf Ranch gets approval to grow even larger

Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch has been a major curiosity among surfers for months. Located more than 200 miles away from the ocean in Lemoore, California, the Ranch is home to Slater’s groundbreaking artificial wave technology, which can reportedly create near-perfect seven-foot barrel waves on demand. This makes it a potential paradise for surfers who have been clamoring for a closer look at the technology since it was first revealed nearly three years ago. Now, we all have the opportunity to witness the Surf Ranch firsthand when it opens its doors to the public for the first time.

The World Surf League expanded its interest
in artificial wave competitions after seeing Slater’s technology in action.

On May 5 and 6, the Surf Ranch will welcome the World Surf League (WSL), which purchased Slater’s Wave Company in 2017. For two days, the venue will host 25 of the top surfers in the world for a unique event known as the Founder’s Cup of Surfing. The competition will pit five teams — each representing a different country or region — against one another. Best of all, the public can purchase a ticket to not only watch the drama unfold, but get a closer look at Slater’s artificial wave technology, too.

The five teams — representing the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Europe, and the rest of the world — are each made up of three men and two women. The captains of each squad are also well-known surfers, including Slater, who leads the American contingent. He’s joined by Gabriel Medina (Brazil), Stephanie Gilmore (Australia), Johanne Defay (Europe), and Jordy Smith (the rest of the world).

The WSL expanded its interest in artificial wave competitions after first seeing Slater’s technology in action. At the Surf Ranch, he and a team of engineers created a man-made lake that is approximately 700 meters long and 150 meters wide. On its banks, is a machine that uses a hydrofoil to create a realistic wave, which is pushed along by a train running along the shore. This creates a swell that accurately reproduces those found naturally on the ocean.

How Kelly Slater’s Wave Pool works. Credit: Adam Fincham and Alex Poirot | USC.

Until now, most of us have had to watch videos of Slater riding these artificial waves to get a sense of what he and his team have created. But in May, those lucky enough to get a ticket to the Founder’s Cup event will see the waves for themselves. Currently, the competition is expected to attract some 5,000 visitors, but now that Surf Ranch has received approvals to expand, that number could burgeon for future competitions.

Earlier in April, the Kings County Planning Commission approved plans not only to make the Surf Ranch concept a public one, but also allow for expansion ideas that would extend into 2026. Currently, the pool’s permit only allows private use, but a new permit will allow the owner of the surf ranch to open up the facility to the public for surfing lessons and programs, as well as annual professional invitational surfing events — aka, the World Surf League. These special events could attract up to 8,000 guests.

In addition, the Surf Ranch Project is looking to develop up to seven ancillary structures and, even more excitingly, two prototype wave-generation systems. That means additional wave pools for the facility.

We’ll still have to wait for all these additions, but in the meantime, you can still try to check out WSL. Limited tickets will be available for this unique surfing experience. To find out more and sign up for updates visit the WSL website.

Updated on April 15: Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch has received permits to expand further