[This photo feature, where we break down our ever-shifting definition of the perfect wave through the last six decades, originally appeared in our April 2017 Issue, “Evolution,” on newsstands and available for download now.]
Perhaps no Earthly wave has ever captured our imaginations quite like the one currently breaking in a pool in the middle of cow country. Lemoore, California, is mostly made up of sprawling farmland, which means the location for Kelly's Wave makes an odd sort of sense: like the local farmers, Slater is also using sunshine (via solar panels) and water (the pool) to cultivate a crucial resource (perfect waves). And they most certainly are perfect. Not only are they long, shapely tubes with sections for just about any maneuver you can think of, but they also break on command. It's that last part—the fact that these waves break at the whims of man rather than nature—that makes Kelly's Wave the most captivating right-hander on the planet, and the latest in a long line of waves that every surfer would kill to ride. "I think we all have this fascination with surfing a 'perfect wave,' and the idea of building one where we control the parameters is nothing new," Slater said in an interview shortly after the wave's unveiling. "When I first surfed wave pools as a kid, it was a novel idea. I tried them all and they were fun, but they left a lot to be desired. When I was finally exposed to the endless surf-ring concept, it all clicked for me. I thought, 'I have to do this.' My mind became absorbed with the idea of creating a wave comparable to those found in nature."