At this point, you’ve seen it a million times: social media posts featuring the best surfers in the world carving, stalling and tube riding across the man-made majesty that is Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch. But have you ever stopped and pondered, “How would us mortal folk fair in the artificial drainers? How hard is it to stay in that tube? How makeable is that end section, really?” Well, wonder no more.
The above edit features a regular surf media scrum of writers, editors, photographers and event commentators lucky enough to find golden tickets in their mailboxes last fall. As you can surely tell from the above edit, none of us are qualifying for the Tour anytime soon. But, lucky for us (and every other surfer with dreams of ripping these artificial peelers once they inevitable start popping up around the globe), the wave itself is surprisingly user friendly. Sure, it takes time to get used to the pace and correctly time the sections (the breakneck end bit, where the oily lip races ahead without warning, is a real doozy), but actually catching the wave, generating speed and carving on the face feels more or less like it does at your local haunt—just on the best day of the year.
A good wave is a good wave, as it turns out, and being made by a strange, Amtrak-inspired hydrofoil doesn’t mean you need to approach it any differently than you would an ocean wave. So there you have it. If us media schlubs can surf these waves (halfway) decently, so can anyone. Getting one of those golden tickets, on the other hand, is another story.