While surf fans might be split on the Surf Ranch Pro as an event, there’s not a one that wouldn’t ride the wave if they were given a chance. It’s got everything – a long section, a barrel, more section, and more barrel. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. And if you’re competing at a high level, boards normally reserved for the raging seas wouldn’t necessarily be the best tool for the pool in Lemoore. So what are the design elements that define a board for the Surf Ranch?
“There are two main issues,” Channel Island’s Britt Merrick told me. “The first is that it’s a very tight wave, with very tight, quick transitions. The lip is really cuppy and tight so you need a board that fits in those transitions, and then transitions quickly in them because of the pace of the wave. We generally go a half-inch shorter with our riders, add more rocker out the back, tighten up the fin cluster, and move volume around. That gets that quick transition.”
Merrick says he also takes one of the wave’s defining characteristics into consideration.
“You don’t get any projection off the bottom because the wave is being pushed from the side and behind, rather than water sucking up the face,” he said, “so you don’t get the same projection off the bottom. You’ve got to have a board that’s not necessarily geared around that projection but geared for getting right back up into the pocket and using the push of the wave.”
The takeoff in Lemoore is a little bit more of a gimme, which allows shapers to play with a little less volume.
“You don’t have to worry about paddleability so you’re able to come down in volume without worrying about it,” Merrick says. “And some people talk about no salinity – there’s no salt so you need more buoyancy. I haven’t found that to actually be the case but you can come with less volume not more, and that behooves you because the board has to be so quick in the transitions.”
Merrick said he finds himself missing the unpredictability of Mother Nature when he’s watching contests at the Ranch but loves nerding out on the challenge the Surf Ranch creates. “That’s why I live,” he told me. “What fuels me is boards for this level of competition and this level of surfer so that’s what I dream about at night.”