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Kelly Slater at Surf Ranch

Live surfing contests are back. Photo: Cestari/WSL


The Inertia

Have you missed watching professional sports? You are not alone. Sports fans around the world have been dying to sit in front of a screen while someone else plays a silly game for vast sums of money. Well, fret no more, professional surf fan, because the World Surf League has figured out a work-around for this pesky little global pandemic thing. I’ll give you one guess where it is. You guessed right: the Surf Ranch.

The last event the WSL ran was way back in March, which feels like about a decade ago. The Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold Rumble at the Ranch will take place in Lemoore, California on August 9, 2020, at 3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT. It’s a one-day, winner-take-all surf showdown.

“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.”

Since travel in or out of the U.S. is basically at a standstill, only competitors who currently live in the good ol’ U.S.A. can compete. So far, only a handful of athletes are confirmed, but the full list will be announced on August 4th. Kelly Slater, Caroline Marks, Kolohe Andino, Carissa Moore, Filipe Toledo, and Sage Erickson are all penciled in as of this writing.

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“I’ve really been looking forward to getting 2020 going, so an event here in California is super exciting,” said Caroline Marks to the World Surf League. “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.”

The format is a little different than usual, and it’s one that Bobby Martinez appears to have foretold: a mixed doubles tournament, similar to the tennis tour. The teams will consist of a male and a female, and they’ll be picked out of a hat. Each team gets four waves to surf — a right and a left for both surfers. The top scores from each surfer added together to make the overall heat score, and the team with the best score moves on to the next round. There are a few additions to the rules which make strategy important (see here for the WSL’s explanation of “the rebate surf”), which, with any luck, will make things a little more exciting.

If you’re planning on going to Lemoore to watch the event in person, though, you’re out of luck. The Surf Ranch will be closed to spectators, so you’ll just have to sit in your living room, shut the blinds, pull on your oldest pair of sweatpants, and let that flickering blue light from your screen penetrate your brain.

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