In 1987 surf film NORTH SHORE travelled around the world. Surfers didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the antics of the lead actor Rick Kane who wins a surf contest in an Arizona wave pool and then travels to Hawaii to become a professional surfer.
It had some great surfing, big waves, Occy flipping one-liners with a straight face and a terrible script but it remains a favourite amongst surfers and raised the question… could a pro surfer ever come from a wave pool?
We came a little bit closer to answering that question last weekend with the running of the WSL SURF RANCH PRO at Lemoore California which is located in the middle of an onion field… about 3 hours drive from the nearest surf .
Yes this was the first professional surf contest in 25 years to be held in a wave pool and streamed live to the world on social media.
The pool itself is a long pool with what appears to be half a diesel locomotive running down the side dragging a shovel ‘wedge’ that creates the wave. Each surfer gets to ride six waves per heat… three on their forehand and three on their backhand. The wave itself runs for approximately 700 meters leading to some very long rides and serious tube time.
It’s not quite Bells Beach, or Snapper of Pipeline… it’s unlike anything you have ever seen with lots of music, product placement and more hype then The Beatles and it was hot.. damn hot because Kelly Slater had decided to build his wave pool in the middle of a desert not far from Fresno. Cool nights and extremely hot days.
The surfing was totally different. Every wave was basically the same so surfers basically copied each other although the women nailed it a lot better then the men. The female surfers led by Stephanie Gilmore and Carissa Moore know how to ride a wave… they don’t fight it, they ride it looking for the power pockets and dancing like ballerina’s down the line (and in the barrel). The blokes didn’t know what to do and kept trying to drive off the bottom and hit lips that weren’t quite there. It is safe to say that the women surfed better then the blokes and made it look easy.
Finals day and it was hot again and the locomotive kept charging up and down the side of the pool creating wave after mechanical wave while spectators baked in the sun. Bells may not be the best surf spot in the world but at least the wave changes and has moods… it can be big, bad and angry. The Surf Ranch Pro was just … the same… and the surfing… the same.
At the end of the finals day Carissa Moore from Hawaii won the Women’s Event and the pocket rocket rom Brazil, Gabriel Medina the Men’s Final.
I dunno… it will be interesting to see if this wave pool contest will catch on. Denim, plaid and tractors…. not quite salty enough for me.
Written by John Foss