Kelly Slater wave pool included on WSL championship tour, dates, news

WHAT was once a mere surfing pipe dream has become a reality, with Kelly Slater’s artificial wave pool be included as a stop on next year’s world championship tour.

In a “game-changing” announcement which heralds a new era for the sport, the World Surf League (WSL) has confirmed the Slater’s Surf Ranch facility in Lemoore, California will host the world’s best surfers in competition in September, 2018.

It follows years of development in technology, and the hosting of a successful test event at the facility earlier this year.

LIVE stream the WSL Maui Women’s Pro on FOX SPORTS. Get a free 2-week Foxtel Now trial & start watching in minutes. SIGN UP NOW >

“Based on the results of our test event this year and the feedback from surfers training at the facility throughout the season, next September’s event has the potential to be something special for both surfers and fans,” WSL chief executive Sophie Goldschmidt said.

“We’re only scratching the surface of how this technology can be applied and it is completely game-changing for the sport.”

“It’s incredible what the WSL and KSWC (Kelly Slater Wave Company) teams have developed at Surf Ranch over the past year and California’s Central Valley now boasts a world-class wave,” Kieren Perrow, WSL Commissioner, said.

“This technology, and its ability to deliver high-quality waves at any location in the world, opens so many possibilities for how we can complement and evolve the competitive experience.”

It’s been almost two years since American 11-time world champion Slater rocked surfing by releasing a video of himself riding a perfect 2.1 metre man-mad tube at what was then a secret location.

Details of the project slowly became clearer as development continued and surfers now describe the experience of competing on the wave as “extraordinary”.

“What the team has created is hard to fathom at first — a perfect, 400-yard-long, bi-directional wave in the middle of rural California,” Australian surfer Adrian Buchan said.

“I have no doubt that both the quality of the wave and the experience is befitting of hosting a world-class CT event.

“The ocean will always be our home, but as we grow, having the opportunity to showcase and share the stoke of surfing to new audiences and schedule with pinpoint accuracy the huge match-ups and drama of the WSL is really exciting.”

The addition of an artificial venue to the world tour is sure to divide opinion, with purists arguing it removes the sport’s natural element and skills including wave selection.

However others point to the advantages in scheduling and a level playing field for competition.

“We now have the opportunity to schedule events in advance, guaranteed high-quality waves, fair opportunity for all surfers and a totally new and unique environment for spectators,” American surfer said Sage Erickson said.

“One of the takeaways from this season’s test event is surfers really have to bring their whole arsenal — forehand, backhand, barrels, turns, airs and timing — to make an impact. It’s going to be incredible.”

With surfing set for its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, man-made pools are set to provide more elite training and competition venues.

The success of ‘Surf Ranch’ has prompted a host of similar projects internationally in recent years with Aussie surfing great Mark Occhilupo backing Brisbane-based project ‘Surf Lakes’.

The full 2018 WSL championship schedule will be released next week.