The facts and figures behind Kelly Slater's Surf Ranch
- 09 November 2017 | Surfing
Welcome to Kelly Slater's Surf Ranch. Get ready to embark on a highly technical and scientific ride across the magnificent world of man-made waves.
The concept of the perfect wave has always been in the mind of the most successful pro surfer of all time. "I've been dreaming about this wave my whole life," Slater once admitted.
Could a human shape and mimic an ocean wave? How many variables should we consider to control the movement of a wave? Can waves be sculpted? How would you define a perfectly rideable wave?
Kelly Slater's vision was to create a soliton wave, i.e., a self-reinforcing solitary wave that maintains its shape while it propagates at a constant velocity.
In 2007, he founded the Kelly Slater Wave Company (KSWC) and, in a decade, the Floridian champion created what is widely regarded as the best artificial wave pool in the world.
Kelly Slater named his project Surf Ranch. His ultimate dream is to design a surf pool that allows surfers to ride waves indefinitely.
Here are a few things you didn't know about the Kelly Slater Wave Company:
1. Kelly Slater had his first contact with an artificial lake at the age of 14 when he and his brother Sean made a surfing demonstration in a small surf pool in Texas;
2. The Cocoa Beach surfer won a surf contest in an inland water park when he was only 16;
3. In 2006, Slater met up with Adam Fincham, a Jamaican-born amateur surfer and aerospace engineer with a specialization in geophysical fluid dynamics, who became the head scientist at KSWC;
4. In 2017, a team from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, which included Fincham, Larry Redekopp, Tony Maxworthy and Fred Browand, conducted a feasibility study to assess the artificial wave potential;
5. The initial tests for the man-made wave pool were made using a 1/15-scale, donut-shaped tank located in a restricted warehouse, in Los Angeles;
6. The early name for the circular surf parks was "Kelly Slater Surf Experience";
7. When in 2015 Kelly Slater unveiled the first prototype built in Leemore, Central California, the pool pumped 45-second barreling waves;
8. It took nearly ten years for the project to see the light of day, from the early lab experiences to the public announcement;
9. The test site at Leemore is a 2,000 feet long and 500 feet wide man-made lake originally built for water skiing;
10. The Surf Ranch relies on a unique system of hydrofoils that make the artificial waves rise up over the rectangular pool;
11. The contours of the lake were designed and perfected with the help of high-tech supercomputers;
12. The hydrofoils run down a track with the help of more than 150 truck tires and at around 18 miles per hour (30 kilometers per hour);
13. When the swell hits specific areas of the lake's bottom, the wave starts to break thanks to the influence of the contour reefs;
14. Giant lateral gutters mitigate the bounce-back effect that occurs on the pool walls;
15. It takes three minutes for the surf pool water to calm down and return to a completely static state;
16. Waves at the Surf Ranch can reach 6.5 feet, but they can also be adjusted to fit beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers;
17. Turbulence and oscillations of the entire water body - seiching - are fundamental variables that are difficult to simulate in a small-scale wave pool;
18. Thin netting separates the hydrofoils from the surfers;
18. After testing it out for the first time, Slater asked his engineers to make a few adjustments to the pool's bottom;
19. The World Surf League (WSL) bought a major stake in the Kelly Slater Wave Company in 2016;
20. The costs of installing a Surf Ranch will vary between $2 million and $20 million, depending on the size of the surf park;