WSL Wave Pool Event A Pro Surfing Milestone?

Watching the action on screen | Image source: instagram.com/shanmanwaller/

The Test, the pool party, the specialty event, the worst kept WSL secret ever, whatever you want to call it, went down yesterday at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, and avid surfers and fans took to Instagram as details and footage came dribbling out, courtesy of WSL and the fortunate elite who were there.

Just some of the easily-recognized names in attendance were John Florence, Gabriel Medina, Filipe Toledo, Bede Durbridge, Kanoa Igarashi, Mick Fanning, Courtney Conlogue, Sage Erickson, Stephanie Gilmore and Carissa Moore. Many other CT surfers and WSL organizers, judges, broadcasters, sponsors and pro surfing founders were present to witness what many are calling a milestone in the history of surfing.

Practice. 🏄🏻 @kswaveco thanks 🎥@sageerickson 🙌

A post shared by G. Medina (@gabrielmedina) on

9,83 @kswaveco @wsl #thetest

A post shared by Filipe Toledo (@filipetoledo) on

This just happened 😮 @john_john_florence @kswaveco #TheTest

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The WSL maintained that the event was mainly a test to explore the possibilities of wavepool technology for live competition – how the whole setup would affect surfers’ performance, scoring and broadcast coverage.

Excitement was high in Lemoore as the world’s best surfers put Slater’s new and improved wavepool through its paces. Notably, Slater himself couldn’t resist surfing his own wave, and opened things with his first surf since his foot injury.

The competition format that followed allowed each competitor two lefts and two rights, with the best-scoring left and right to make up their heat total.

High scores were not the done deal some might imagine, given the “perfection” of the wave. The wave had its own quirks which tripped up even competitors like John Florence. In the men’s finals it was Kanoa Igarashi, Gabriel Medina, Filipe Toledo and Ace Buchan who faced off, with Medina taking the top spot in the end. Carissa Moore emerged the winner in the women’s event.

Carissa Moore and her team | Image source: instagram.com/rissmoore10/

The competitors at the event spoke about the experience with enthusiasm, Toledo calling the wave “the one that (surfers) dream about”. Stephanie Gilmore said that she had just “walked into the future”.

Public opinion, on the other hand, is so far mixed. Many who have seen the Surf Ranch footage can only envy the chosen who have ridden the wave, and look forward eagerly to wavepools becoming mainstream and public. Others feel a mechanical wave would be fun to surf, less enjoyable to watch on broadcast. There are those who worry that wavepools will rob surfing of its soul, reducing it to a predictable exercise without the uncertainties and challenges that only the ocean can offer.

Does the Surf Ranch event represent a welcome development in professional surfing? What are your thoughts? Share your opinions below.

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