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Surf contest gearing up to make waves at Surf Ranch near Fresno

Starved fans will get a taste of live surfing competition for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shut down pro sporting events earlier this year when an exhibition event will take place at the Surf Ranch in central California.

The event, hosted by the World Surf League and held in Lemoore, will be dubbed the “Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Rumble at the Ranch,” a team-format event that will be held on Aug. 9 at the man-made wave pool.

Caroline Marks (USA), a Florida transplant who lives in San Clemente, competed at the Surf Ranch in 2018. She’s one of 16 surfers slotted to compete on Aug. 9, 2020 at hte Surf Ranch in Lemoore, CA, USA. (Photo courtesy of WSL)

The Surf Ranch created by 11-time world champion Kelly Slater, held a similar team format event when it was unveiled in 2018, though this one will not have teams based on country, rather 16 of the top surfers who live in the United States.

The announcement comes just as the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, one of the largest action-sports festivals in the world that draws hundreds of thousands of people, was supposed to be getting underway this weekend and recent news that WSL was canceling its 2020 competitive season. 

The announcement also comes as surfing’s debut was supposed to take center stage at the Olympics this week. According to, had the waiting period kicked off on Thursday, July 30, the waves would have been contestable chest-to-head high waves at Shidashita on Japan’s coast where the contest was slotted to happen.

But for the upcoming Surf Ranch event, no forecast is needed. Waves will be pumping through a machine, delivering perfect left and right-hand waves and some barrels for surfers to tuck into.

San Clemente surfer Kolohe Andino, as well as several who call the small surf town home, including Florida transplant Caroline Marks and Brazilian Filipe Toledo, will be able to compete for the first time this year with the upcoming event at the wave pool.

“I’ve really been looking forward to getting 2020 going, so an event here in California is super exciting,” Marks said in the announcement. “I love the Surf Ranch, so I can’t wait to get out there and surf again. It’ll be fun for us athletes and the fans too.”

Toledo, one of the big stand outs in the event when the Surf Ranch was unveiled to the public for the first time two years ago, said he looks forward to putting the jersey back on.

“To know we can bring a live experience for fans from the Surf Ranch here in California, in a safe and secure way, is really exciting,” he said in the news release. “It’ll be awesome for us surfing, for our sport and our fans.”

Of course, what kind of contest would it be at the Surf Ranch without the wave-pool creator, Slater, also slotted to compete. The event also includes reigning four-time WSL Champion Carissa Moore and Ojai’s Sage Erickson. The full list of competitors and teams will be announced on Aug. 4.

With ongoing coronavirus concerns lingering, there will be no spectators allowed to watch live, but it will be broadcast starting at noon on Aug. 9.

“We’ve missed live surfing and we are excited to bring fans a unique live experience with the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Rumble at the Ranch,” said Erik Logan, WSL CEO. “Utilizing the WSL Surf Ranch facility in Lemoore, California, we have the opportunity to host this in our own arena, implementing extensive safety protocols to ensure the health and safety of the participants, staff and local community.”

Rumble at the Ranch is part of The WSL Countdown, a series of regional, pre-season exhibition events in the USA, Australia, France and Portugal that will bring competitive surfing to fans during a time of restricted international travel.

Teams made up of 16 surfers with eight men and eight women will pair-up to form eight co-ed teams. The teams will face-off in a head-to-head bracket, advancing through to the quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals to win.

Every round, each team will get four waves, consisting of two rights and two lefts. Each surfer’s best score will be combined to create the team score for that round. The team with the best score will advance to the next round.

Judges will watch and score the event remotely.

Athletes and staff will be tested for coronavirus prior to the event and strict social distancing measures, temperature checks and minimal personnel on-site protocols will be put in place.

“WSL officials have collaborated extensively with public health officials, medical experts, as well as local and state officials, to create a thorough plan to ensure the health and safety of participants, staff, and the surrounding community,” the event’s organizers said.

Source: Orange County Register

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