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LEMOORE — “If you build it they will come.”

The famous line from the “Field of Dreams” was part of the inspiration to build a surfing facility around 100 miles from the ocean in an area that’s known mostly for its agriculture.

This weekend “they” are coming.

The Surf Ranch is hosting its first major competition, The Founders’ Cup, May 5-6 drawing an expected 5,000 people to the Lemoore area.

The Surf Ranch was the initial research and development for the Kelly Slater Wave Company and it has plans to expand to something more than just a test drive.

With most hotels in the Lemoore and Hanford area booked solid for this competition, the Surf Ranch is bringing a whole different type of customer to Kings County.

The tickets for the competition are nearly sold out on Sunday and completely sold out on Saturday. The ticket prices range from $86 to $9,788 (complete with surfing on Monday and a hotel room).

The competition this weekend will be the first time members of the general public will be allowed on the site. When there are no competitions, the ranch will continue with private sessions that can be set up through the Surf Ranch.

Recently, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and Chris Hemsworth, known for his role as Thor from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, have taken the trip to Lemoore to test out the Surf Ranch.

The competition is a country-against-country event with five members per country. The teams are United States, Australia, Europe, Brazil and World which is comprised of five surfers from different countries.

The format for the Founders’ Cup is a preview of what the surfing competition for the Olympics might look like. A portion of the Olympic competition is planned to be at the Surf Ranch in Lemoore.

Laura Muma, a spokesperson for the World Surf League, said that when the wave company started it picked Lemoore for how remote it was and planned to simply build the wave machine, test it out and then later set up shop in another location.

Now the team is looking at making more permanent plans with the Lemoore site.

Sam Ramirez, the site’s general manager, said the ranch has purchased around 140 acres surrounding the ranch with the goal to expand and create a luxury experience. What that exactly includes is still in the works, but it will be more like a resort facility.

They also have purchased properties in Southern California, Florida, Brazil and parts of Asia where the company plans to create more mechanized surfing facilities and resorts.

The Surf Ranch is also owned by the World Surf League.

Another first for the league is televising the event. For one hour on Saturday, CBS Sports Network will broadcast the competition live. Then on Sunday afternoon, they plan to have a highlight hour of the competition.

This is made possible by the predictability of the contest. Muma shared that an example of unpredictability was that the league had to cancel a previous contest due to sharks in the water.

The 700-yard wave pool is powered by solar power, electricity and a lot of engineering.

The water used to fill the pool comes from the ranch’s private well and they treat the water to prevent algae growth.

The waves travel from north to south in around four-minute cycles.

It took the Kelly Slater team over two years to get to the point of hosting a large competition.

Ramirez said that in the ocean, surfers often surf around 20 seconds of a wave at a time whereas in the wave pool they can double that time of surfing a continuous wave.

"The facility and the wave at Surf Ranch are (sic) amazing," said Stephanie Gilmore, who will captain the Australian team. "It's such a fun wave to surf and really high-performance.”

The next competition at the ranch is set for Sept. 5-6 and it will be the Surf Ranch Open.

Muma said the ranch has had a pleasant experience working with the various local organizations to make the competition possible.

West Hills College Lemoore will be providing parking control for the event and Lemoore Police Department will provide some traffic control around the area.

"We are basically just providing traffic control at the north and south exits of the 41 and at the intersection of Bush and Belle Haven," Commander Michael Kendall said. "We'll see a big influx of people; we are prepared for this."

Ramirez said in addition to the ranch’s security team of six, they hired around 100 people to work security for the event.

Ramirez said they also made an effort to support local business where they can, such as getting their shirts printed in Lemoore.

Some of the staff, like Ramirez, is local to the area and the Surf Ranch provides an opportunity that they didn’t have before.

“I’ve been in hospitality for 16 years, and would have to travel out of town to do my job,” Ramirez said.

On a Wednesday morning tour of the facility, Kristin Clark, president of West Hills College Lemoore, and other faculty members pondered ways to incorporate curriculum such as engineering and hospitality with the Surf Ranch.

As  County Supervisor Joe Neves and the staff of West Hills Lemoore were shown the facility, crews worked on the set up of the various bars, stages and vendor tents for the competition while a few of the surfers practiced.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2458 or chelsea.shannon@lee.net.

News Reporter

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