Our Day at Kelly Slater's Surf Ranch
Courtesy of our friends at Outerknown.
(Video summary of the day below)
I was very fortunate to be invited to a retailer day by our friends at Outerknown...that happened to be at Kelly Slater's famed wave pool, located in Lemoore, CA.
Also known as the WSL Surf Ranch, we were more than excited to try our hand at Kelly Slater's ranch.
From the first time I had heard of Outerknown, I knew we wanted to be deeply involved with the brand.
Outerknown was founded out of the belief that better products are built when every design and manufacturing decision is made with the highest regard for the environment.
Outerknown has been built from the ground up to be fully sustainable and responsible. In fact, a fashion industry insider told me that Outerknown is the most sustainable fashion brand on the planet, without exception.
Founded by legendary surfer, Kelly Slater, and acclaimed designer, John Moore, Outerknown may be the world's first fully sustainable end-to-end clothing manufacturer.
John Moore, Kelly Slater, yours truly and Outerknown's CEO, Mark Walker
Seeing the wave first hand was awesome but perhaps my favourite part of the day was hanging out with the OK team and learning more about where they're headed.
Their ethos aligns ever so closely to ours...and they're stuff is just awesome.
Where is Kelly Slater's Surf Ranch located?
The good town of Lemoore, CA is home to Kelly Slater's wave pool.
Located about 3.5 hours drive North of Los Angeles and 3.5 hours drive South of San Francisco, the WSL surf ranch is located on a flat, dusty acreage in the middle of Central California farm land.
Other than the sprawling (somehow packed) Tachi Hotel and Casino, there isn't much going on in Lemoore.
Kelly Slater's KSWAVECO's famed man made wave, that has become lore in the surfing world, that is.
This is Kelly's Wave, the Surf Ranch his playground. Here he is, making it look easy.
It's been touted as a perfect wave. However, it is much more challenging than it appears.
First, the wave is faster, heavier and trickier than it looks.
If you had a week (even a day) to surf it with a handful of people, you would learn it's nuances quickly.
After all, it is a mechanical, man made wave. Wind, currents in the lagoon and the speed settings of the machine (dubbed CT1, CT2, CT3) used to produce the waves create subtle variations in its character but the concrete 'reef' doesn't change shape unless engineers and bulldozers get involved.
But if it's your first time, and you're nervous (I was!), surfing it is not as easy as it looks.
With seventy retailers there for the day, I was allocated four waves across two heats, which was two more than most and I was grateful for them!
This is a pretty awesome synopsis of Kelly Slater's surf ranch by the fine gentlemen from Prooflab in Mill Valley, CA:
"Faster, bigger, more addictive, more powerful and tricker than expected. Some waves are much more rippable and have more makeable tubes.
Can flip from Trestles to Mini Cloudbreak in a second, without the warning you'd get on an ocean wave, so a little experience goes a long way. Most of us first-timers got smoked by the barrel at some point, like my first wave."
Mine, too. This is me not getting barrelled on my first (and only) try at the right!
All was going okay here:
Image courtesy of the main man, John Moore (thanks, John!)
And then this happened rather abruptly...
During the initial briefing, we were all advised to just go. Don't mess around, just get down the line as fast as you can so that you (hopefully) have the speed to get into and make the barrel sections.
Having many conversations with the other lucky attendees throughout the day, not many of us heeded this advice!
So how does Kelly Slater's wave pool work?
It is ~2,300 feet long (~0.7 km) and a machine runs the length of the lagoon, displacing volumes of water to produce a wave with open and barreling sections, positioned precisely according to the concrete bathymetry.
The machine (and it's sinister sounding whirr) moves from one end of the lagoon to the other to produce one, long right. There is a break for the water to settle. This is accelerated by a 'moat', which runs around the pool, catching all of the displaced water. Then the machine moves back the length of the pool, producing an equally long left.
The left is newer and, I think, is not as consistent to the well honed right. Some lefts would barrel, some wouldn't.
Here is a schematic of the surrounds (I hear KSWAVECO owns circa 80 acres, with plans to expand the operation).
What to Pack for a Day at Kelly Slater's Surf Ranch?
For boards, I had been given the advice that you want something with a lot of volume to get onto and keep pace with the wave but you still want to be able to turn it...a bit.
I brought two boards.
My go-to favourite groveller, a handsome Takeda Customs Chopper, which is 5'8 x 21 7/8 x 2 15/16 at a hefty 45.86L's of volume. The second was a last minute decision, a Lost Surfboards Puddle Fish. We put it to a vote on our Benny's Boardroom Instagram account, and the Puddle Fish came out ahead so that's what I surfed.
And, of course, I brought some essential kit, laid out here:
- Patagonia Black Hole Pack Backpack
- 750ml S'well Bottle
- Frank Green Coffee Cup
- Bellroy Note Sleeve Wallet
- Orbitkey Key Holder
- Sun Bum Sun Screen
- Futures Fins Rasta Quads
- The Amigo Hooded Change Towel
- Outerknown Clean Slate Board Shorts
Thank you Outerknown for an amazing day of surfing and revelry! Smiles all around!