This weekend, the world witnessed a revolution in surfing with the inaugural World Surf League Founders’ Cup. The event took place at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California, which, believe it or not, is 100 miles from the nearest ocean.
Kelly Slater is professional surfing’s biggest star, with 11 world championships to his credit. But Slater is also a visionary businessman who spent the last decade designing and building an artificial wave pool to provide predictable, consistent waves that would be perfect for professional level events.
On the weekend of May 5-6, 2018, Kelly Slater’s dream became reality when the world’s best professional surfers from Team USA, Team Europe, Team Brazil, Team Australia, and Team World kicked off the first Founders’ Cup. After a weekend of flawless waves and world-class surfing, the event was won by Team World on Sunday.
Members of Team World practice at @wsl @KSWaveCo Founders’ Cup in Lemoore (yep, Lemoore). Surfers will compete tomorrow in co-ed teams by region: USA, Europe, Brazil, Australia, and World. pic.twitter.com/W1s6KmvYpE
— Laura Tsutsui (@LauraTsutsui) May 4, 2018
Slater began surfing as a kid in Florida, and by 14, he was competing and winning against surfers twice his age. Kelly became the youngest world champion at 19, and he also became the sport’s oldest world champion at the tender age of 39. His 11 world championships are an all-time record, and Slater is also an ambassador for his sport. Now that surfing is an official sport in the 2020 Summer Olympics, Slater’s artificial wave technology could help bring the sport to a worldwide audience.
Kelly spoke about his dream with the Washington Post. Although he was aware of the concerns of surfing pursuits, Slater felt the benefits outweighed any negatives.
“Of course that came into mind, during the development. When dreaming how this was going to play out, and what I envisioned it looking like, I definitely thought that it made sense, that you could schedule those things for competition… If you’re going to bring in sponsorship and have it on TV, you got to be able to call the time slots and that sort of thing. It’s funny because surfers don’t live on that kind of schedule. We don’t live by a time schedule, we live by conditions. This somewhat eliminates that problem, if that’s a problem.”
Team USA surfer Kolohe Andino told NPR that he was struck by the contrast between the local environment and the amazing waves.
“It’s just super different because you’re in the middle of the desert. You drive here, you’re like, whoa this is so weird and you get here, and it’s paradise for a surfer, just perfect waves.”
Now that the WSL Founders’ Cup is over after a wonderful weekend’s worth of perfect waves and outstanding rides by the best surfers on the planet, the future is wide open for Kelly Slater and Slater’s Surf Ranch. Congratulations to the victorious Team World and to Kelly Slater for making the dream possible. Now, its surfing’s time to shine in the 2020 Summer Olympics.