We're Live At Kelly's Wave Pool Event... Just Outside The Gates - Stab Mag

Playing (Mostly) Exclusively On Stab Premium: Facing Monsters, Featuring Kerby & Cortney Brown


We’re Live At Kelly’s Wave Pool Event… Just Outside The Gates

It’s all happening! Stay tuned for live updates.

news // Nov 2, 2017
Words by Michael Ciaramella
Reading Time: 9 minutes

On November 2nd, 2017, the WSL held a secret surf event at the then-secretive Kelly Slater Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California. Having caught wind of the event, Stab sent two reporters, Michael Ciaramella and Morgan Williamson, into the desert to cover the event and attempt to get inside the cedar gates.

This is their story.

7:30 AM, Motel 6, Lemoore, CA

It’s pronounced Luh-moor, for anyone who’s wondering.

And at 6:30, or maybe 7 AM, we, being Morgan Williamson, Lyon Herron and I, rose to an eastern sun piercing through our bedside window. Squinting through the plexiglass we saw a highway, a Valero station, some sort of scrap yard and Lemoor-ons, the local people, going about a typical Tuesday morning. From the late-night conversation we had with our motel’s desks clerk, it would appear most people in Lemoore have no clue what’s going on down the street. 

Right now, at 18556 Jackson Avenue in Lemoore, CA, is a congregation of surfing’s greatest athletes at surfing’s greatest invention. Over the next ten hours they will partake in a groundbreaking event – one that will literally alter the course of surfing history. Adding to its relevance is the fact that “The Seven Founding Fathers of Competitive Surfing” (PT, MR, Shaun Tomson, Rabbit, and… shit! A WSL exec listed them last night, but our drunk and excited minds lost track after four) migrated to Lemoore to witness the genetically modified fruits of their labor. Today is important.

At this moment we’re departing from the Sixth Motel and making our way toward Ground Zero. We’ll do our best to cover this historic moment from every angle possible, and you can read about it all here. Hit that refresh button early and often. – Michael Ciaramella

9 AM, (outside) Slater’s Wave Pool, Lemoore, CA

Lemoore is a lot colder than we’d imagined. Leaving our humble domicile at 8:30 AM, we were surprised to find the temperature in the lower sixties (roughly 17 C, for the rest of the world) and a crisp wind blowing from the northwest. Is that onshore? Offshore?

Google Maps confirmed that the pool runs vertically from north to south, meaning that when the wave goes in one direction (the wave breaks both from north to south and south to north; one way is a right and the other a left), the northwest wind would be cross-offshore, while the other direction would be cross-onshore. 

Screen Shot 2017 09 19 at 10.37.50 AM

Parking across the street from the Ranch, right next to a quaint mobile home community, we did our best to check the surf. By standing on top of my car, Morgan and I could make out people, places, and things but not the wave itself. This nearly crushed our spirits until we heard a familiar voice coming from the skies. God, is that you? No, but it was Joe Turpel, and his velvety chords, despite being so, so far away, lulled us back to happiness.

Just then, a cop approached our vehicle and informed us that we had to move. He feared that our car would spark a chain reaction in which “500 cars will be on the side of the road, trying to see the event,” so we left. For now. – Michael Ciaramella

10:02 AM, Coyote Bar and Grill, Tachi Palace, Lemoore, CA

Driving towards our first look at the pool in daylight, we reminisced on the night prior. The coffee had been flowing, and our memories thankfully, came back; bit by bit. We peeked our heads above the fence, in front of the trailer park adjacent to the Surf Ranch. 

Mosquitos! Everywhere. They sucked my shins bare, to the day’s end I’ll itch them bloody. 

Back to last night. Lyon had a brief conversation with the engineer behind Kelly’s man-made wonder. Here’s what we learned: The mission of Kelly Slater’s Wave Co is to replicate the ocean in the most literal way. The pool has tide swings, they’re five minutes apart, and are dependent on whether the left or the right is breaking. Both the left and right break in the same pool. When the left rolls through to “shore”, a few minutes later the right breaks from the opposite “shore”. Apparently, there are 50 different configurations of the wave. 

The engineer’s name – who spoke to us offline – will not be mentioned. But, he’s a mad scientist of sorts, who spent the night drinking cocktails and puffing Marlboros at the Tachi Palace Casino bar. Which, is where we’re at right now actually—it’s really the only place to eat, drink, gamble, smoke and dive into mortgage ruining debt near “The Ranch.” And the only place with WiFi we’ve got the password to.  

Later last night, Mike and I lightly “prodded” Kelly for information about the event that’s set to kick off at 11 AM today. We asked Kelly about his disappointment with the leaks prior to “surfing’s worst kept secret.” He said it showed a disconnect with the surfers. That they are all supposed to be on the same team. That they need trust, and leaks break the trust. He said he was personally offended, it had nothing to do with business. You could see the disappointment in his eyes. But, now, everything’s a leak! The WSL’s copping our style and doing a live feed of the event! How dare they?  

Anyways, here’s a rundown of the event: It starts at 11 AM. The competition runs from noon-5pm. There’s a dinner between 4-6 and a live musical performance at 6:30. Now, I have to go meet a man named Steve who’s bringing us a cherry picker. – Morgan Williamson 

10:33 AM, Kelly Slater’s Wave Pool, Lemoore, CA

Slater is surfing again! His foot is still totally fucked, as evident through this tender approach, but the man can still tub and that’s all that matters. After his morning dip, Slater told the WSL, “I don’t care if it takes an extra month to heal, it was worth it.” – Michael Ciaramella

11:00 AM, Coyote Bar and Grill, Tachi Palace, Lemoore, CA

As we sit here, feverishly typing to bring you all the latest content from this historic moment, the competition has officially begun. We haven’t much info on heat pairings or times, but we do have some ideas about how to improve our vantage point. More soon. – Michael Ciaramella

11:05 AM, Kelly Slater’s Wave Pool, Lemoore, CA

The comp’s about to begin! The heat draws being reported are nonsense; they’re everyone’s slots from yesterday’s warm-up. We’ll try and get you the actual roster ASAP. 

Peter King just reposted a video of Filipe from the pool, which led to an interesting exchange between PK and Yadin Nicol.

Yadin: did they lift the non-disclosure agreement?

PK: Apparently… this is a repost from Filipe… everyone obviously got the green light. Probably to diffuse the impact of the leakers.

Is PK right? Is our presence being felt? Michael Ciaramella

12:15 PM, Kelly Slater’s Wave Pool, Lemoore, CA

The cherry-picker has arrived. After a passive aggressive threat from one WSL lackey, we talked to Big Tony (pictured above), head of security, who gave us his blessing to peer from the skies. At the moment we’re 20 feet above terra firma, scoping the world’s greatest manmade wave from a heavenly vantage point. We’re only able to see the left, but damn it looks fun. More soon; WiFi eludes, as the party rages inside! – Michael Ciaramella

12:45 PM, Kelly Slater’s Wave Pool, Lemoore, CA

Stab is going huge on the local news. First Fox, now CBS! They didn’t really want to talk with us, but the fact that the WSL shunned them from the premises gave them little choice. Plus, we were the only guys with a giant cherry picker.  Those interviews, which feature Morgan and I talking absolute nonsense about this event, will be going live this evening. -Michael Ciaramella

1:20 Kelly Slater’s Wave Pool, Lemoore, CA
After our pleas, not-so-covert ops, and relentless determination to get our actual physical bodies into, or at least in front of, the actual Kelly Slater Wave Pool event, we have still not been granted access. We stood atop our cherry picker. We waved to the people. We waved to Dave Prodan. To Kelly, to Gabs. To Mick and Steph and Wilko and Filipe, and maybe Dirk Ziff, and maybe Mark Richards, and the lead singer of Coldplay, probably. It’s hard to tell, even from our beautiful blue cherry picker swaying in the wind.

But, it lost a screw, and we had to come down and now they are cautious about getting back up.

So now, we’re sitting outside the event, with the windows up, panting like dogs in a hot car (just kidding, we’re blasting the AC), awaiting a man named Steve to pick up his wonderful big machine. He said maybe an hour, maybe less, maybe more. The future is oh-so uncertain! – Morgan Williamson

1:50 Kelly Slater’s Wave Pool, Lemoore, CA

The competition format has been leaked by a mole on the inside! Here’s how today’s winner will… win? Can you go right and left?

2:19 PM, Tachi Palace, Lemoore, CA

We just met up with our drone guy. For the last few hours Matt Kurvin’s been hovering a few hundred feet above the event, figuratively speaking. While we were up in the cherry-picker, he was busy seducing a local landowner (to let him hang on her property), hiding out in her backyard to avoid problems with the police. From this Lemoorian bunker, Matt launched his mini-heli and scored some quality, legally tenuous* images. He was eventually sniffed out by the cops, who he said were very nice but asked him to please stop flying over the contest site.

*We’re hearing different opinions in terms of the legality of droning. According to one of our Disqus commenters**, it’s still legal in California to fly a bird over private property. According to local police, it’s illegal to fly a drone over private property IF that drone is considered a “nuisance” by the landowner, which, it would seem, the WSL felt we were being. Still got our shots though! – Michael Ciaramella

**From JSamuels: 

With respect to the drone from Stab’s latest update, nuisance is a proper claim, but not proper for cops to enforce. It’s also related to sound and there’s no way they could hear the drown over the sound of that farking train running down the track. Tell them to sue you.

(2) Private Nuisance. (Civil Code section 3481) A cause of action for private nuisance may arise against unwanted drone usage. The nuisance in this case, is the noise of the drone – the whirring of the engine or blades – disrupting the quiet use and enjoyment of your premises.

3:20 PM, Tachi Palace, Lemoore, CA

THE WAVE IS DOWN! I repeat, the wave. Is. Down. Our mole reports that, just before Stephanie Gilmore’s first run in the finals, Thomas the Tank (Kelly’s pet name for the wave-producing trolley, presumably) has run out of steam. 

And this, my friends, is precisely why the WSL didn’t broadcast the event live. The chance for mechanical (or competitve) structural failure was too high to risk the WSL’s future investment opportunities. This is a saddening turn of events but, well… c’est la vie.  

While the rest of the party migrates to the bar, Stephanie Gilmore is reportedly still sitting in the lineup, eyes glued to the horizon, just in case. – Michael Ciaramella

3:02 PM, Tachi Palace, Lemoore, CA

Sorry, Felipe just dropped a 9.8 and everyone’s losing their minds. While we pour over the drone footage, here’s our bird’s eye angle on the action! Look at how loooooong it is!

3:10 PM, Tachi Palace, Lemoore, CA 

Details from the mole: While we got back to our fav Native American Casino in all of Lemoore #TachiPalace for a much needed beer and to sift through our pending drone footage, our wonderful rodent on the inside (who provided this video of the “chosen ones”) sent us Filipe Toledo and highest scored wave of the event, a 9.8. And, as with anything near perfect, it’s being wildly debated. On a “perfect wave,” can anything be near-perfect? That’s a fighting score, and apparently, there is drama inside “The Ranch.” But, tell us, what do you think: is Filipe’s wave 2/100’s from perfect? After all, one of life’s greatest gifts is the ability to sit back and judge people like cats. – Morgan Williamson

3:55 PM, Tachi Palace, Lemoore, CA

THE WAVE IS BACK UP! I repeat, the wave. Is. Back. Up. Johanne Defay rode a right down to the end of the pool and the wave stopped. So, Kelly’s elves went to work. They twisted nuts; they cranked bolts, and that little engine that could fired right back up. After nearly witnessing the first lay-day in the history of man-made competition, all is right and well in wonderland. #KellyBless. – Morgan Williamson 

(For more behind the scenes of our Lemoore escapades give @lyon_herron‘s Insta story a tap….after you’re through ours of course!)

4:56 PM, Tachi Palace, Lemoore, CA

Carissa Moore just won the inaugural Future Classic at Kelly Slater’s sandbox! As we were told last night, all proceeds from this event will go to charity, but Carissa can take solace in the fact that she’s the first female champion at a (legitimate) wave pool event — an achievement that will forever reside in surfing’s history books. Congrats Riss! – Michael Ciaramella

5:32 PM, Tachi Palace, Lemoore, CA

After a few hours of work y cervezas at the Tachi Casino, it’s time to immerse ourselves back in Lemoore’s golden dust. Over the course of the day we’ve exhausted every (legal) resource to penetrate Kelly’s castle. The only thing we haven’t tried, of course, is walking straight through the entrance. But now the time has come. We’re storming the gates. Wish us luck (and watch live via our Instagram, in like…. 20 mins). – Michael Ciaramella

5:58 PM, Tachi Palace, Lemoore, CA

We’re a little drunk (but never defeated!) and just learned that Gabriel Medina won the men’s division. Filipe Toledo finished second and apparently Eddie Vedder, the raspy voice/grunge god from Pearl Jam, is set to wail in emotional flair. We’re hitting the road back to the pool. We’ve heard the password is “Everlasting Gobstoppers.” (No, really.) So, we’ll try that. – Morgan Williamson 

6:53 PM, Kelly Slater’s Fucking Wave Pool, Lemoore, CA

We’re innnnnnnnnnnnnnn!

So. In.

They’re making us leave our phones in the truck, but our man Big Tony and the WSL (Dave Prodan, is that you, you handsome bastard?) have granted us access. 

Much. More. Later. 

We need a drink! 

Screen Shot 2017 09 19 at 4.00.36 PM


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Jack Robinson Isn’t (Really) Injured, Police Say ‘No Surfing’, A Chinese Star Emerges

Our first Tahitian dispatch from the 2024 Olympic Games.

Jul 25, 2024

The Hog Makes His Olympic Predictions

After a night spent vigorously cross-examining athlete data, Hedgy produced these BOAG picks.

Jul 25, 2024

2024 Stab Surfer Of The Year MYC (Mid-Year Check-in)

Who's made the biggest footwell in surf culture, thus far, in the Year of the…

Jul 25, 2024

Are Bronze Medalists Really Happier Than Silver?

Owen 'Bronze God' Wright demystifies the 2024 surfing Olympics.

Jul 24, 2024

‘Desensitised’ Chronicles Kipp Caddy’s Journey To The ‘Wave Of A Lifetime’ In Mind Melting 8K 

“I think crew get a bit too beaten up on the whole tow vs paddle…

Jul 24, 2024

Long Read: How Surfing The World’s Most Dangerous Slabs Saved Kerby Brown’s Life

"There is big wave surfing, and then there is what Kerby does." - Kai Lenny

Jul 24, 2024

Who Nathan Florence Is Betting On For Olympic Gold

Become a better better with our 2023 SSOTY.

Jul 23, 2024

Kai McKenzie Attacked By Shark In Port Macquarie

The young freesurfer sustained a life-threatening injury to his right leg.

Jul 23, 2024

Op-ed: PSA From The Photog World — Know Your Fucking Limits

Nate Lawrence, Chris Bryan, Dom Mosqueira, Morgan Maassen and more chime in on the recent…

Jul 22, 2024

Unlocked: Oxbow’s Children Of Teahupo’o

10,000 miles from Paris, here's a portrait of surfing's 'Olympic Village.'

Jul 22, 2024

Dimitri Poulos Is Reinvigorated After Losing His Taurine-Caffeine Sponsor

Now the 21-year-old ‘comp guy’ from Ventura threatens a Dane-esque pivot to freesurfing.

Jul 22, 2024

Empty Set: When Is It Ok To Bail Your Board?

The Florences and Mark Healey dissect the razor-thin line between cowardice and common sense

Jul 21, 2024

A (Non) Objective Look At The Best Backside Barrel Riders In History

Who has the best pigdog in the pen?

Jul 21, 2024

The Stab Interview With Jordy Smith

"If I won a gold medal, yeah, I'd probably kick out. I'd have one up…

Jul 19, 2024

How Does A Board Brand Licensing Model Work?

The Lost Stub 3.0 Joyride.

Jul 18, 2024

Challenger Series Losers Win Consolation Prizes At Namibian Desert Casino

"Some crew were saying it was a 3/10, but for me, it was 10/10. The…

Jul 18, 2024

How Teahupo’o Slungshot A Surf-Mat Toting Photographer Into An Induced Coma

Byron Mcloughlin tells the tale of his secondary drowning.

Jul 18, 2024

On Making A Living As A Gen-Z Surf Photographer And Surviving Hyper-Rare Cancer

This 21-year-old protégé of Ryan Miller and Morgan Maassen is back and #opentowork.

Jul 17, 2024