The only man-made wave on WSL Championship Tour, the Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California, offers a competitive environment unlike any other in the world.
Located more than 100 miles from the Pacific Ocean, in the heart of California's agriculture-rich Central Valley, the area is known more for producing country western stars like Merle Haggard than it is surf stars, but that's the beauty of it all. Located three hours north of Los Angeles and three hours south of San Francisco, it's introducing surfing to people that never thought they'd be riding waves.
The wave itself -- which offers both a left and a right -- is a 600-meter long swell offering spinning tube sections, open canvases for full-rail power maneuvers, as well as puntable sections for lofting airs.
The manifestation of the dream of eleven-time World Champion Kelly Slater, in 2006 he shared his vision with Adam Fincham, PhD., a Professor at the Viterbi School of Engineering (USC) and an expert in fluid dynamics. The two jumped into the deep end, seeking to develop a man-made wave the likes of which the world had never seen.
For decades the idea of holding surfing competitions in man-made waves has been toyed with, and in 1985 at the Wildwater Kingdom amusement park in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Tom Carroll defeated Derek Ho in the first-ever Championship Tour contest held in artificial waves.
It was no small feat of engineering, but by 2014 the first incarnation of what would become the Surf Ranch was born. In 2017, the facility got an overhaul and the wave quality and capabilities were improved. The following year, the first-ever Championship Tour contest was held in Lemoore -- won by Gabriel Medina and Carissa Moore.
Today, the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro is a pivotal stop in the race for the 2021 World Title. Moore currently sits atop the WSL Leaderboard and will be looking to extend her lead over the field. She's looked amazing through the Australian leg of the tour and has a real affinity for the artificial wave. Shining at breaks like Honolua Bay and Trestles throughout her career, the right at the Surf Ranch shares characteristics of both.
For the men, Brazil's Gabriel Medina holds a lead over a hungry pack of rivals in the race for the Final 5. Last year, he posted a 9.93 in the Final at the Surf Ranch and back-to-back wins here. Given the heater he's on this season, who knows what he will bring to the basin this year.
The format of the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro is as unique as the wave itself. The only contest on tour that features a leaderboard format, it's a departure from the regular bracketed surfer-on-surfer format.
The Jeep Surf Ranch Pro runs from June 18-20. Tune into WorldSurfLeague.com to watch live or on demand.