LEMOORE, Calif. — The World Surf League held a test event at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, Calif., on Wednesday, evaluating the new technology as it pertains to performance, competitive format, broadcast and spectator interaction as well as overall experience.
“Having the ability to replicate, even partially, the power and shape of ocean waves for anyone in the world, in any location and at any time is a truly magical thing,” said Sophie Goldschmidt, WSL Chief Executive Officer. “The WSL intends to learn a lot — how this technology can be applied to live competition, how the surfers perform, how waves are scored, how we cover in broadcast, the overall experience that we can create and what it feels like to witness this kind of surfing.”
Surf Ranch played host to a cross-section of the world’s best surfers to run the groundbreaking test. John John Florence (HAW), Jordy Smith (ZAF), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Adriano de Souza (BRA), Filipe Toledo (BRA), Gabriel Medina (BRA), Joel Parkinson (AUS), Adrian Buchan (AUS), Mick Fanning (AUS), Kanoa Igarashi (USA), Tyler Wright (AUS), Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), Carissa Moore (HAW), Courtney Conlogue (USA), Sage Erickson (USA), Silvana Lima (BRA), Pauline Ado (FRA) and Johanne Defay (FRA) acted as test pilots for the competitive format, with prize money going to charity.
“This is just a magical day, I can’t believe it,” Gilmore said, a six-time WSL Champion. “Every single wave is so much fun and challenging and nerve wracking. That was just so special!”
Also on site was 11-time WSL Champion Kelly Slater (USA) as well as seven founding members of the sport of surfing: Peter Townend, Shaun Tomson, Wayne Bartholomew, Mark Richards, Ian Cairns, Randy Rarick and Fred Hemmings.
“I’m just blown away by the whole project and to see it in real life is so amazing,” Richards said. “The wave is actually way bigger in real life that it looks on video. It’s been an incredible experience to be here and see the surfing.”
Yesterday’s event saw 18 surfers battle through two preliminary rounds with each surfer getting the chance to ride four waves — two in each direction — and their highest-scoring left and highest-scoring right hand waves combined to make their heat total. The four top scoring male and female surfers advanced on to the finals.
“It’s perfect. It’s that wave that we dream about, the one that we draw on paper,” Toledo said. “The one that you dream about — being able to surf it, fitting in the barrel for 20 seconds and make it out and turns, turns, and then a final maneuver. Just, mind blown.”
On the men’s side it was Medina, Toledo, Igarashi and Buchan that made it through to the final. Oon the women’s side, it was Moore, Gilmore, Wright and Defay. Eventually it was WSL Champions Medina and Moore that came out on top and claimed victory at the historic event.
“It feels amazing,” said Moore. “I just didn’t think it was going to be possible to win so I’m so pleased.”
Medina said: “I’m so stoked to be part of history. … This is such an incredible day for surfing, and I’m really proud to be a part of it.”
Men’s Final Results: 1. Gabriel Medina (BRA); 2. Filipe Toledo (BRA); 3. Adrian Buchan (AUS); 4. Kanoa Igarashi (USA).
Women’s Final Results: 1. Carissa Moore (HAW); 2. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS); 3. Tyler Wright (AUS); 4. Johanne Defay (FRA).