Photo: WSL / Kelly Cestari

There was no waiting period, no warm up surfs down the beach, and the girls didn’t have to surf in unfavorable tides. The Surf Ranch Pro, held at Kelly Slater’s well known wave pool, eliminated everything normal about a contest and put the world’s best surfers in a position that was clearly unfamiliar and uncomfortable - and it was (kind of) amazing.

The format of the event was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before - each surfer was given two lefts and two rights in the opening round. After everyone had ridden 4 waves, they were allowed one more left and right. From there, each surfer’s highest scored left and right counted as their two wave total. The top 8 men and top 4 women then advanced to the final, where they were given XXX waves. Again, the top left and right counted and the surfer with the highest total from the final day was crowned champion.

One of the most interesting aspects of this contest was that for the first time, surfers were putting together predetermined runs, much like snowboarding or skateboarding. With natural elements such as tide, wave quality, and wave consistency nearly uniform for all competitors, the door was open for “routines.” Surfers like Kanoa Igarashi and Kolohe Andino made it clear that they had runs they had thought about before catching the wave. Other surfers, like Julian Wilson for example, expressed that he was playing it by ear and not thinking about what he was going to do on the wave before he caught it. This “routine” approach vs. the more natural approach is something we’re sure the surfers were struggling with - this is the first time in competition they have ever had the ability to do this. Of course in a normal contest, if a competitor is behind with 1 minute to go he’s going to chuck a hail mary, but we KNEW the wave was going to come. Consistency of the ocean did not play a factor. This is the first time the athletes were truly put on the spot and had no excuse but to perform if they wanted to win.

We’ll be the first to admit, the surfers who played it safe made the event boring. The guys who punted on the outside section (before the first barrel), really made it exciting to watch! The risk factor was there and spinning a reverse around right before ducking into the tube was epic. Also, the guys who out ran the last barrel section on the right and lined up for huge airs really showed the potential of these wave pool events. THAT is what people want to see. Let’s be honest, no one wants to watch you sit in a 20 second tube. It’s boring, and any of these top pros can do it. However, the potential energy you saw building up when Felipe raced the last section and sent an ally-oop six feet above the lip was exhilarating! You’re left thinking how the guy’s knees and ankles didn’t just explode on impact, and that is what people will pay to see.

On the women’s side, it was really good to see the high level of surfing. The girls were making backside tubes, and going for airs! The wave pools have created an environment that is allowing for the level to be raised, and for that reason we should all be stoked! Better surfing is what we want to see, and if Carissa and Caroline are going to be landing air reverses, we want to watch.

All in all, we think both sides of the dream tour saw what needs to happen if they want to win at the wave pool: High risk maneuvers from start to finish. Everything else will be taken care of by the genius scientists and the people running the show. All they need to do is perform. Huge congrats to Gabriel Medina who’s Kerrupt flip on the left was amazing, and to Carissa Moore whose power and flow is truly admirable.

Photo: WSL 

P.S. We are really excited to see the “Stab High” air show event at the Waco, Texas wave pool. The only thing being rewarded will be high risk, high flying punts from the world’s best aerialists. That starts Sept. 22nd! We’ll have a full write up on that following the event.

See you in the water.