Surfing Kelly’s Ranch

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TAKK Founder Jim spent a day at Kelly Slater’s surf ranch and here we find out what it’s really like:

So for starters, I am an average surfer, of average age and average build. We thought this might be interesting to get the perspective of the wave ranch from someone average, who isn’t a pro, isn’t ripped and (due to two broken and pinned hips) isn’t ultra-flexible. I am your average surfer and we make up the majority of the 35 million surfers globally. So this is a view of one of the most talked-about surf spots from your average Joe.

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First off, when I was invited, the anticipation was unbelievable. I could not believe it, this is the ultimate in artificial wave surfing. Of course, I said yes immediately. It was only then that I had the inevitable pre-surf jitters. What if I just waste my waves in front of legends? I overcame that pretty quickly, as I realised that this was a once in a lifetime chance that I could not waste time being nervous about!

The drive from San Fransisco or Los Angeles is 3 and a bit hours from either city. For those who have not been into the valleys of California, you realise that you are truly in the middle of nowhere. Lemoore is a little town miles from anything.

First waves were at 0730, with an air temp between -1C and 15C, water temp of 15C. I was up early and at the gates at 0700. The first and only thing you notice about the Wave Ranch from the road are the wooden gates with the KSWC logo on, next to which is a guard box. For a European, it almost looks like a military installation. All fears are put aside though when a hip young guy dressed in OuterKnown comes out and greets you, checks your name and gives you your wristband. The gates then open and you are in!!

Driving in and parking, you can see you are somewhere a little different. KSWC has created an amazing space that’s cool Californian ranch meets surfing.

There really was no need for nerves. The team meet and greet you at the door to the board room and you are allocated a WSL style surf locker with your name at the top.

Locally sourced breakfast (potatoes, eggs, muesli, fruit - everything) is cooked on-site and is laid out with coffee. Boards are selected from the quiver (naturally the full range of Firewire boards to choose from) and I chose the 6’4” Greedy Beaver (full review here) and it’s time to suit up.

I cannot stress enough how great the team are, from the surf guides to the chefs. The atmosphere is as relaxed as if you are just at a friend’s pool for a BBQ. There is an effortless efficiency, which must take an incredible amount of effort and planning.

 

I was trying out the new Finisterre Nieuwland wetsuit, which I have to say is incredibly comfortable - the material is like butter. I was a little anxious as it wasn’t hot (the air temp was around -1C, water temp of 15C when we first arrived) and the wetsuit was only a 3.5mm on the chest and 2.5mm on the arms and legs. No need! the world’s most sustainable wetsuit is also, in my average and humble opinion, the warmest I have tested.

The nerves did hit a little as I entered the still water and was told to paddle out along the metal fence. Again no need for nerves as the surf guides are used to talking to surfers who are new to the ranch and helping them into the waves. “Dude after you catch your first, the nerves will be gone”.

The day is divided into hour-long “heats”.

The waves are divided into 2 categories, Advanced and Intermediate. The first 2 heats of the day were advanced or CT waves.

Within this, there are two types that you can call if you have priority; CT2 which barrels down the middle section, or CT3 which barrels at the beginning and at the end.

In each heat, we had 4 surfers. The one closest to the entry ramp has priority the rest line up down the wire fence at equally spaced gaps denoted by different coloured flags. If the surfer before you falls off or kick-outs you can go.

By the time the third wave came, I had priority on a right (video below). I called a CT3 and you hear over the PA, “CT3 30 seconds”. Then….click, click, click, as the chain starts to rattle over the track getting faster and faster. You look back to the entry ramp and see the wave build-out of nothing.

It’s not a hugely steep or critical takeoff, you have plenty of time to set your rail and drop in.

Then you are away and what a wave - its better than the hype. It’s a little disorientating at first surfing towards a wire fence, but that soon passes as you enjoy the perfect face and Raimana is shouting at you from the jetski.

After the first two heats, the foil was reset for the intermediate waves.

The intermediate wave is nicknamed the Waikiki wave which is a super fun party wave (Jim on the green board in the video below).

The day was a blur of epic waves and more barrels than I have ever had in one day in my life.

Before I knew it, we were having our end of day meal, laughing and trading wave stories. Can’t wait to go back.

Definitely one for the bucket list.

If you get invited - GO.

A bit about the food

The food is all sourced as locally as possible and within the season. When you arrive there is a delicious breakfast spread with healthy hot and cold options, plus coffee, tea and hot chocolate.

There is also a basket on the coffee table with about every organic power bar you can imagine, from cliff bars to Larabars.

If you get hungry or thirsty between sessions there are nuts, popcorn and tonnes of different drinks.

Lunch and Dinner were both awesome.

The team also did mac and cheese for the children.

A bit about the facilities

The locker / board room - this is the first room you walk into, where you are allocated a locker, choose your board and are given a wetsuit if you haven’t bought one. The room is split in two with the other half filled with sofa’s (and skateboards for you to take at your leisure) and a giant TV. The TV has a live and replay feed from either end of the wave pool. Which is great for two reasons you can watch your buddies all over the ranch while chilling out and you get a link to all the waved from your day.

Stepping out of the board room, you are on the deck, which has one of the two hot tubs (there is a similar chill-out deck at the far end of the pool as well with another hot tub) and the iconic Surf Ranch tractor and importantly Surf Ranch Sun Cream - lather up that desert sun is intense, even in November.

Round to the left there are numerous showers, all with soap and towels.

The other building off the deck hosts the OuterKnown shop which has Surf Ranch signature clothing, as well as the kitchens, guitar snug and conference room.

There are pushbikes to cycle around the ranch and golf carts to drop you off.

Items of interest

  • Distance from LAX and SFO - 3 and a bit hours from both.
  • There are a number of hotels in the area, I stayed at the Tachi Hotel which is less than 5 minutes from the ranch gates or you can book one of the Airstreams they have on-site.
  • Available quiver - The ranch has the full line up of standard FireWire boards (including Slater Designs - naturally and some of Rob Machado’s Surfboards).
  • Available wetsuits - The ranch uses O’Neil suits and has multiple numbers in all sizes for when the temp is cooler, in the summer boardies can be worn.
  • Number of waves - 140 in a day
  • Time to between waves/reset - 4 minutes

Jim’s total carbon output was 3.5T he has offset this personally by 200%, that’s his truth, what’s yours? Are you offsetting your surfing addiction?

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