The Wave Ranch
You have no idea. Unless you have been there of course, in which case you will have an idea of the incredible experience which awaits you if you go. The Wave Ranch is the brainchild of both a scientist and a surfer. When looking for a place to surf, every surfer is always looking for that “perfect wave.” The problem is that those waves are few and far between! But not at Kelly Slater’s!
Kelly Slater, champion surfer, had obtained a big plot of land in Lemore about 110 miles from the closest shoreline in central California. For a surfer, to be that far from the waves is kind of a bummer. On the other hand, when he teamed up with a fluid mechanics specialist, history was made.
While wave pools have existed for over half a century, compared to the actual ocean, they kind of suck. Kelly approached Adam Fincham, a fluid mechanics specialist at USC, who took up surfing only after he began teaching there. Slater asked Fincham if he could help him design a wave in a wave pool that was as close to the perfect wave in nature that is possible to get. And they did it.
How the Wave Works
First, there has to be water, of course. In an over 700-yard-long lake, the two designed a hydrofoil to be dragged through the water at a controlled speed, thereby creating the wave. What is a hydrofoil you ask? It’s a specially shaped metal blade which pushes water in front of it (and creates an undertow-like pull behind it) while being pulled across the lakebed. This helps to create the swell.
The lakebed, which is made of a pliable, springy substance, has different slopes and dips, helping to determine when and where the wave will break. This creates a wave that is absolutely perfect. Every. Single. Time.
How They Began
Using the help of supercomputers and many simulations, Slater and Fincham began with the concept of making the wave. They began to input all the data, such as ocean water’s push and pull rates, temperatures of both air and water, the interaction of differing layers of water with the ocean’s bottom, the distance between wave crests, etc.
It took 10 years of hard work and testing. You get the picture. Just to give you an idea, riding a wave for 30 seconds in the ocean is a heck of a long time, and getting a good barrel, consistently at least, is a trial.
Why Are Slater’s Waves Perfect?
Just about every angle has been attacked here, and the potential pitfalls have been avoided. The pair performed exhaustive research and simulations, which were so extensive that it could sometimes take weeks to run just one on parallel supercomputers.
They figured out that in an enclosed environment like a pool, they had to put dampening areas in to break up the oscillating waves that would come back towards the main wave. They designed a track to pull the hydrofoil. They also made sure that it was super robust and could pull the hydrofoil again and again and again.
The perfection comes from this: the wave is the same length and speed, every time. It has the same diameter, the same break point, and same length barrel, everything. And it’s 50 seconds long. The entire process only takes three minutes to reset before the next wave, so there is a potential of 15 waves per hour. Just check out some of the videos at KS Wave Company’s site.
The World Surfing League
The WSL organizes the annual tour of professional surf competitions and broadcasts surfing events live from around the world. It is THE governing body of professional surfing. In 2016, the WSL was so impressed with Kelly Slater’s Wave Company, they bought a major stake in it.
The reason is that while there is not only a perfect, fantastic, epic wave created which can be ridden again and again, it’s consistent. Which means that the face of professional surfing can be changed forever. You can take a peek at the web page.
The Future Classic
The WSL held the Future Classic at the Surf Ranch, and it was astonishing. Every surfer competing had something they had been dreaming of. A perfect wave which they knew would be just as good as their competitors’. The factors that could not be predicted before, the longevity, strength, wall and barrel potential of the wave, had been tamed.
Each person would truly be competing on a level playing field for the first time. It was so successful that even the Olympic committee sat up and took note. They are now considering how to make surfing an Olympic event, now that so many variables can be taken out of the equation.
Why Is All This So Important?
The WSL, Slater, and hordes of surfers want to see this phenomenon spread across the globe. If one wave pool works, why not one thousand? The ability for the pool to exist far from any large body of water, and to be regulated allows for many things to happen that were not available to the general public at large before.
Because the angle and speed of the hydrofoil can be altered, waves can be tailored to beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Such a training system could be invaluable for those who can’t spend a lot of time at the beach, or for professional surfers who want a controlled environment to practice their moves. People who are ridiculously far away from the ocean (think Midwesterners and Plains people) could legitimately take up surfing as a sport!
How Can I Get There?
Right now, you pretty much need to be a top surfer to get invited, because it’s more of a proof of concept and test market than an open wave park. Nevertheless, this is something that will change surfing forever.
Every single person who has surfed the wave pool has been blown away, and more and more backers are getting involved. New technology is being applied to the project every day. More man-made surfing locations are planned, with a worldwide rollout in the form of surfing parks, complete with hotels, attractions, concert venues, high-end stores, and of course, Kelly Slater waves. The world of surfing will evolve quicker than ever before, and surfing just may become a mainstream sport faster than we could possibly imagine. Until then, keep on surfing, and sooner than you think a KSWaveCo paradise might just be near you!