Friday in Lemoore, Calif., seven legendary organizing members of professional surfing gathered to open the first-ever WSL Founders' Cup of Surfing, which runs May 5 - 6. Fred Hemmings, Randy Rarick, Peter Townend, Shaun Tomson, Wayne Bartholomew, Mark Richards, and Ian Cairns all played major roles in surfing's rich history. The crew of pioneers got their own surf session at the WSL Surf Ranch ahead of the competition, which will get underway Saturday.
"It goes without saying but I'm supporting Team USA," said Hemmings, who was the 1968 World Champion and has also served as a Hawaii state senator. "The majority of the surfers on that team grew up surfing at the same spots that I learned how to surf at 60 years ago in Hawaii. But putting aside my bias, the Brazilians are looking amazing. They're on fire right now."
In preparation for the 2020 Olympics, the WSL Founders' Cup of Surfing will be the first-ever nation vs. nation competition. While many of the early icons had high ambitions for the sport of surfing, none of them saw the WSL Surf Ranch coming. It will be a groundbreaking weekend in the sport in part because no one could have predicted that professional surfing would be where it's at today. To look out and see a perfect wave in the middle of the desert? It's surreal.
"I was a little boy in Waikiki Beach in the 50s," continued Hemmings. "We made the transition from wood boards to foam boards. And at the time I thought, ‘It doesn't get any better than this.' Then I went to the World Surfing Championships in the 1960s in Puerto Rico and the sport was making the transition to short boards. Even then I said, ‘It doesn't get any better than this.' I retired from surfing and started pro surfing at the Pipeline Masters and I said, ‘It doesn't get any better than this.'
"And now fast forward to what Kelly has done with this machine, which is something out of some futuristic movie or something. There are beautiful waves in Lemoore, California. The best surfing in California right now is right here. And you can't help but think, 'It won't get any better than this'. But it will. It always does."
Watch the WSL Founders' Cup of Surfing live daily on the WSL and Bleacher Report (US only).