We (speculatively) know that the 2019 Championship Tour will differ from the current schedule, with a more select field competing for a season-ending playoff in Indonesia, among other changes. How the 2018 season will play out, though, is still unknown, at least until the WSL releases a full schedule next week.
But today’s press release from WSL officials spilled the details on 2018’s newest — and most enticing — Tour stop: Kelly Slater’s Wave Pool in Lemoore, California.
"Based on the results of our test event this year and the feedback from surfers training at the facility throughout the season, next September's event has the potential to be something special for both surfers and fans," WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt said. "We're only scratching the surface of how this technology can be applied and it is completely game-changing for the sport."
The big test for Kelly’s Surf Ranch as a realistic event venue came in September with Kelly’s “Future Classic,” featuring a handpicked roster of ‘CT surfers who competed in the pool’s reeling right- and left-hand waves. Gabriel Medina and Carissa Moore took wins at the WSL specialty event. With Tour personnel looking on in the crowd that afternoon, the Future Classic seemed like the perfect model for combining a competitive format and artificial-wave technology–in a place nowhere near the ocean.
"It's incredible what the WSL and KSWC teams have developed at Surf Ranch over the past year and California's Central Valley now boasts a world-class wave," Kieren Perrow, WSL Commissioner, said. "This technology, and its ability to deliver high-quality waves at any location in the world, opens so many possibilities for how we can complement and evolve the competitive experience."
"The surfers and the WSL have had a long-running discussion about the whole new set of opportunities that an event at the Surf Ranch facility can offer for the sport," Sage Erickson said in the press release. "We now have the opportunity to schedule events in advance, guaranteed high-quality waves, fair opportunity for all surfers and a totally new and unique environment for spectators. One of the takeaways from this season's test event is surfers really have to bring their whole arsenal – forehand, backhand, barrels, turns, airs and timing – to make an impact. It's going to be incredible."