NewsShaun Tomson

Pro Surfing's Founders Get a Glimpse of the Future

Knowing Tuesday's event was going to be a milestone moment in professional surfing, Kelly Slater and the WSL invited a cross-section of the sports original icons to witness the occasion; these are the surfers who willed the sport to life more than 40 years ago, transforming the old model of determining a World Champion at one single event each year into a more comprehensive exercise that would test surfers at breaks around the world.

Fred Hemmings Pays Tribute to Pro Surfing's Icons
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The driving force behind the original Championship Tour pays tribute to heroes past and present.

Among those on hand were International Pro Surfing (IPS) founders Fred Hemmings and Randy Rarick, World Champions Peter Townend (1976), Shaun Tomson (1977), Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew (1978) and Mark Richards (1979-1982), as well as Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) founder and former World No. 2 Ian Cairns.

WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt, Dirk and Natashi Ziff honoring the Founders, Ian Cairns, Randy Rarick, Fred Hemmings, Peter Townend, Shaun Tomson, Wayne Bartholomew, and Mark Richards at the Future Classic in Lemoore, CA, USA WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt, Dirk and Natashi Ziff honoring the Founders, Ian Cairns, Randy Rarick, Fred Hemmings, Peter Townend, Shaun Tomson, Wayne Bartholomew, and Mark Richards at the Future Classic in Lemoore, CA, USA WSL / Kenneth Morris

Slater's life path and achievements are a direct result of their efforts, and he's known that for some time. For more than a decade he's been working hard behind the scenes to return the favor, and what better way to do that than adding a giant-force multiplier into the mix.

Not surprisingly, the founders were thrilled by the gesture.

"I was absolutely stoked to be a part of this," said Richards. "I was so blown away by what I saw yesterday."

Like many in attendance, Richards was surprised by how different reality was from what he imagined.

Runner-Up and Six Time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore of Australia surfing at the Future Classic in Lemoore, CA, USA Stephanie Gilmore earned the second-highest score of the entire day thanks in large part to her creative tube-riding tactics. WSL / Kenneth Morris

"Coming in I thought the judging was going to be really difficult, because I envisioned every wave being exactly the same, but that wasn't the case at all," he explained. "We saw people falling off waves, guys drawing different lines, and surfers reading the wave better than others. It was actually really easy to tell who did better than the other."

Shaun Tomson, Mark Richards, Eddie Vedder at the Future Classic in Lemoore, CA, USA Shaun Tomson and Mark Richards were talking about Eddie Vedder. WSL / Kenneth Morris

"This wave is unbelievable," says Tomson. "It was great to see surfers of this caliber being humbled at times by a wave like this."

"You have to have the whole package out here," says Cairns. "It's a long wave, and challenging, and you have to show judges your entire range to get a good score in this kind of setting."

Gabriel Medina of Brazil surfing at the Future Classic in Lemoore, CA, USA Gabriel Medina put his entire repertoire to work to earn the win. WSL / Sean Rowland

To that point, there wasn't a single 10-point ride given all day. Filipe Toledo nabbed the highest-scoring ride with a 9.83. Stephanie Gilmore had the second-highest, with a 9.77.

The format for this event was a huge departure from traditional ones. With only four rides allowed per round, the pressure of every ride is intensified. "That gave it way more of an Olympic feel," said Richards. "Only two waves counted, a left and a right, so if you fall you're done. And we saw a lot of guys do that...that kind of pressure is exactly what makes events like the Olympics so exciting. Your four years are completely gone if you blow it."

Fred Hemmings of Hawaii and  Raimana Van Bastolaer of Tahiti at the Future Classic in Lemoore, CA, USA 1968 World Champion Fred Hemmings isn't surfing anymore due to two bad knees and a trick hip, but that didn't stop him from hitching a ride with Raimana Van Bastolaer to get a close-up look at the action. WSL / Kenneth Morris

"When the playing field is level, it's a lot easier to see who utilized it more uniquely, or better, with no bobbles," said Slater. "And the whole idea of getting a 10-point ride on one maneuver is done -- that could never happen here."

"The technology is unbelievable," said Bartholomew. "I was talking to Mick and Joel and Steph, and we were comparing that tube section to Greenmount. It's just amazing. Kelly has proven the science in such a big way."

As for what role they see this playing in surfing's future, the brainstorming is just beginning.

KSWC Group Tuesday's test pilots at the Surf Ranch. WSL / Steve Sherman

"That's the future out there," he continued. "This wave pool space is here now. I'd be guessing if I know exactly where it's going to go, but I do think it's going to be a real stimulus in many areas."

Rabbit Bartholomew showed up early Wendesday morning hoping to nab a few more rides, and Slater was happy to escort him to the front of the line. WSL

"I'd dearly love to see these locations built all over the world," said Richards. "And I can see the Tour being a combination of the best locations with some pool locations."

"Look, this is the technology that's going to save the Olympics," said Cairns. "If they try to hold the Olympic event at that tiny beach break in Japan it's very likely going to be one and done for surfing. They need this."

Highlights From a Magical Day On The Surf Ranch
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Tuesday at The Surf Ranch in Central California was a milestone moment for professional surfing.
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