LEMOORE — Competitors and fans from near and far turned up for the second day of competition during the World Surf League Championship Tour at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore.
Although the Surf Ranch Pro event officially began Thursday, Friday was the first day the public was allowed inside the venue to watch the man-made wave pool in action.
“It’s fun just to share a sport and what we love to do with a new group of people and hopefully bring some more people here to Lemoore to hang and have a good time,” said U.S. surfer Conner Coffin.
Coffin is about as “local” as the competitors come, hailing from Santa Barbara. Other surfers competing came from countries like Brazil, Australia, Portugal, France, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.
Friday’s event kicked off with the women’s tour in the morning and two men’s tour rounds headlined the afternoon before the day ended with a non-competitive “expression session” in the evening.
Coffin has been at the Surf Ranch quite a few times, but said he still finds the experience surreal. Even after three years on tour, the 25-year-old said he never expected to surf a world tour event in a wave pool.
“It’s fun and it’s challenging and it’s long and it’s hot and it’s awesome and it’s hard,” Coffin said jokingly. “It’s a lot of things, so it’s definitely a lot of fun.”
Another competitor that didn’t have to travel too far was 23-year-old Lakey Peterson, also from Santa Barbara.
“I’m one of the lucky ones because I live only like three away hours from here,” Peterson said.
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While Peterson had never heard of Lemoore before coming to the Surf Ranch for the Founder’s Cup in May, she sees the wave pool as the future of surfing and said she’s glad to be a part of this first movement.
“To open this to the public to come and see the magnificence of it and what Kelly and the whole team have done to create this is pretty cool to see, whether you’re a surfer or new to surfing,” Peterson said. “It’ll be fun for the fans and it’s a lot of fun for us.”
Kirk Max, who said he’s been to surfing competitions up and down the West Coast, traveled to the Surf Ranch from San Diego to take photographs.
Besides not having to wait long for a wave to come along, Max said the consistent wave ensures that the best surfers will come out on top.
“I think this could be the spot for the Olympics,” Max said of the Surf Ranch. Surfing will make its debut in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Ricardo Felix traveled all the way from Brazil to see his favorite Brazilian surfers, including Filipe Toledo, a five-time Championship Tour victor.
“I like to see the Brazilians here and I’m so excited to see them working today,” Felix said. “I like it so much; it’s a pleasure to be here.”
Felix started watching and following the sport of surfing when he was a teenager and though he was surprised when he started passing farms on his drive down from San Francisco, he was not disappointed when he saw what the Surf Ranch had to offer.
“It was so strange because it’s not a beach, but it‘s very cool,” Felix said. “I think this is the best wave that I’ve seen in my life.”