Words By Jeff Mollencop. Photos By Jarett Juarez & Scott Huggin
How much would you pay to surf a perfect wave? What’s it worth if you were guaranteed swell and clean conditions all day? Then I told you that nobody else was able to snake, drop-in, or battle you for your waves? The Kelly Slater Surf Ranch says it’s worth $55,000 per day, and it’s sold out!
This was the challenge facing us after we got a taste of the wave during the Outerknown Brand Day and were determined to go back. For 13 hours during our drive home, we plotted and schemed how to make sense of this massive number. We thought of doing a raffle, then a fundraiser, but neither were feasible, and we later determined not even legal. The calculators on our phones got a workout, but we finally figured if we got 20 people to pay $2,750 each we were there. The wave runs every 4 minutes during an 8 hour day, so each person would get 6 waves (plus “poach” waves when someone fell). A very heavy price tag for one day of surf, but after surfing it once, I was willing to pay that price for another shot. The question was, would anybody else pay that much?
As my calls went out to the friend’s I thought might have the time and money to pull this kind of trip off, I also reached out to the Ranch to discuss available dates. To my surprise, the pool was completely booked until December. What?!?! How can so many people afford this much money for a day of surfing? The bright side of all this, the price was discounted for winter since the average low temperature in Lemoore is 38 degrees with a high of only 58. This was music to my ears. We are very comfortable wearing hooded wetsuits, boots and gloves year-round, but I guess the average surfer needs an incentive to put on that much neoprene. After prying even further, I was also able to secure a discount for going there on a Tuesday. When it was said and done, we needed 16 surfers paying $2,500 each to make the trip happen. Things were starting to sound a little more feasible.
Within just a few days, I had everyone committed I needed. In fact, it filled up so quickly, I didn’t get an opportunity to ask numerous people I thought would like to go. Who knew that so many people were willing to pay this much money to surf a wave? Deposit were paid, flights booked, and hotel rooms secured, this was going to happen!
We all arrived at the Surf Ranch Gate on December 10th at 6:30am. Our group was made up of members from our surf team, locals from Pacific City, numerous customers of the shop, and other surfing buddies from around Oregon. It was a great mix of surfers from professionals to novices and everything in-between. The vibe was mellow and supportive. This was only enhanced by the amazing crew of people who work at the Ranch. From the moment we arrived, we were treated like first class guests. Everyone went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and made sure we had everything we needed. In fact, there was a quiver of Firewire Surfboards to try out, wetsuits provided from Rip Curl if we hadn’t brought our own, complementary wax, sunscreen, coffee and other refreshments. The food was fantastic, and they made sure to adjust for any dietary needs of the group. I expected world class waves, but didn’t realize the effort they put into making someone’s overall experience so memorable.
This royal treatment was nice, but our group was here to surf! Everyone was buzzing to see the wave, but we had to wait almost two hours for the morning fog to lift before we could start. Despite all the modern technology to guarantee us swell, Mother Nature still has the final say when we got to surf. Luckily, the fog cleared up in time that no wave counts were lost during the day. We all gladly skipped the scheduled lunch break in favor of making up time, and the staff adjusted accordingly to make it work. They were just as concerned about getting us our waves as we were, pretty cool.
When the waves finally started to roll, everyone’s stoke level was through the roof. Obviously, Team Riders Tony Perez and Tyler Cunningham were the standouts, quickly being able to read the wave and position themselves for countless barrels. Catching everyone’s attention however, was young Kai Huggin. Not only did he tuck into one of the deepest barrels of the day, but he seemed to match the speed of the wave better than most and made a bunch of impressive turns. He’s quickly becoming an important member of our surf team.
This wave is fast. An average wave in the ocean travels at 15 miles per hour. This one speeds along at 22 miles per hour. What this does is leave you very little room for error. If you miss-time a turn, the wave races away from you. If you stumble on your take-off, it is very hard to catch back up with the open face. The barrel needs to be timed perfectly or you will never get in or make it out. Even though it's perfect, the wave is challenging to surf. When you see people making turns and surfing the barrel well, it takes a lot of skill to be able to pull it off. Other people on the trip who stood out were: Justin Howard, Bill and Scott Huggin, Neill Barker, and Colin Anderson.
The most stoked award easily goes to PC local Marty Wisehart. It didn’t matter if he was on a wave, waiting for his turn, or standing by the pool cheering people on, he constantly had a smile on his face. Our friend Blake Kauer gets the award for most consistent. All day long he put himself into position to make both barrel sections and very rarely did he blow it. Daniel Harkavy got the longest barrel award for an epic ride after receiving a pep talk from legendary waterman Raimana. He told Daniel to relax more in the pocket, which he did and eased his way into a never-ending cover-up. Everyone else had a blast and got unbelievable waves of their own!
Finishing the day off with a family style dinner, was the perfect way to wrap things up. The entire crew had a great time and the positive vibes were flowing. Everyone was talking about their best rides, funniest moments, and overall joy of the day. The wave is perfect, but being able to share this experience with friends was probably the best part. Surfers are selfish by nature. We always want the best wave of the day for ourselves. When every wave is the same however, you start to remember how much fun it is to surf with others. To root friends on, see them succeed, and get the best waves of their lives. If that’s the future of wave pools, sign me up.
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