Stab Magazine | The Overall Cost Of Kelly Slater's Surf Ranch
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The Overall Cost Of Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch

Just a few shekels from the pocket of Dirk Ziff… 

news // May 23, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The money sunk into Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch is equal to .004 percent of the techno-empire, Apple. The tech, the facility, time and effort cost a meager $30 million according to a recent mini-doco by CNN.

But when you enter the highest tier of wealth, $30 mil is just a wishful coin plopped in a gilded fountain. For instance, the most recent Academy Awards, between the artists, venue, hors d’oeuvre on frilly toothpicks, cocktails, et al, cost just over $40 mil to execute. And like the Awards, the Surf Ranch is reserved for surfing’s elite.

If you were invited to, or paid for, the VIP section of The Founders’ Cup, plenty of snacks on frilly toothpicks could be lifted from silver platters held by (mostly) women in pretty dresses. There was live music. Every minuscule moment was documented and later scrutinized. And, the participants, or competitors in this case, gave glowing post-whatever interviews, complete with gracious thank-yous for those who made this all possible.

While the idealism of a perfect wave has been scribbled on the notebooks of elementary students and bored accountants for decades, the reality of near-perfection at the push of a button is the state of surfing in 2018. Without doubt, Kelly Slater’s wave is the most perfect and expensive in the world – $50k to rent for the day, $9k for a single session.

Following the Founders’ Cup, the desire to ride the pool has never been higher. And, according to our sources, this price point was affordable enough that surfing’s wealthiest enthusiasts ate them up almost instantly.

American Wave Machines’ Waco, Texas facility and the Wavegardens of the world are for the serfs. The 30-million dollar Lemoorian miracle will always be the pond for the elite – a place where Chris Hemsworth and PGA Masters take their freshwater swings. A well-considered theory on the financial sustainability of the Surf Ranch can be read about in Wade Gravy’s “Is Kelly’s Wave Destined To Fail?

Regardless, the sheer magnitude of the Surf Ranch is baffling. For those who’ve stepped through the wooden gates, passed the parking spaces reserved for Steph Gilmore, Filipe Toledo, Kelly, John Florence, Tyler Wright and the rest of surfing’s elite, can attest: it is a specimen of technology and design. Upon initial viewing it’s hard to wrap your head around it – the 700 yard pool, the ominous voice that tells you a wave will come in 30 seconds, the tube itself, the concrete bottom, the mosquitos, the clubhouse, and the luxurious experience put on by the World Surf League – one that is unrivaled by any competitor.

But many of those who both attended the Cup and have ridden the wave before swore they would not come back unless they could put their foam to the face of the artificial production. That weekend, the once lucky ones were the tortured, the damned, the sweaty, the drunk. $30 million dollars in technology loses its shine when it’s been had once, and then left just out of reach.

The question posed by CNN, and various non-endemic surf sources who’ve picked up the story of this 12-year, $30-million passion project – is this megamillion piece of manmade history the future of surfing?

Or, is that just what a $30 million headline about a synthetic wave should say?

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