The Los Angeles Times just published a fascinating piece and video on the WSL Surf Ranch, a creation of Kelly Slater. WSL is located 100 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean in Lemoore, California, which is 35 miles south of Fresno. From the story:
“In 2006, Slater teamed with Adam Fincham, an associate professor of engineering at USC who specialized in fluid dynamics. They studied aerial footage of beaches across Southern California, Australia and the South Pacific, translating breaks into mathematical equations. Computer simulations led to a small-scale model, each step suggesting they were on the right track, but it would be eight years before construction began.
The 20-acre Lemoore property seemed like a feasible site because the land was cheap and it already had a pair of long, narrow lagoons that had been used for water skiing. The isolation was another plus.
‘It wasn’t on anyone’s radar that we were building here,’ Slater says, adding that ‘if the thing didn’t work, we would scrap it all and never show anyone the footage and pretend it never happened.’
The key to their design was a giant hydrofoil — picture a bright blue locomotive with a snow plow mounted on it, a 200-ton contraption charging along rails at the lagoon’s edge, pushing a wall of water toward a lone surfer.
‘In the ocean, you see the wave from 30 seconds out and you have all these judgments before it gets to you,’ says Kanoa Igarashi, a 20-year-old pro from Huntington Beach who helped test the system’s early versions. ‘Here, the wave pops up out of nowhere. Pretty weird.’
After about two years of fine-tuning, the ranch now generates waves that consistently rise to 6 feet tall and roll the length of seven football fields. They break to the right when the hydrofoil moves in one direction, then left when it makes the return trip.”
Surfers say it can’t beat a perfect wave from Hawaii or Tahiti but that the waves here are perfect and gnarly. Current world champion Tyler Wright says: “You get in wrong spot, you can definitely get water up your nose.”