I roamed around the Surf Ranch for a weekend during the 2021 Surf Ranch Pro. Media and athletes were the only people in attendance that year so the circus that flooded into Lemoore for past events wasn’t around. And that meant chatting with athletes was a lot easier than usual. One thing stood out in most of those interactions: just how nervous and anxious athletes were for their waves. I’d surfed two waves there myself and knew the feeling. I actually can’t think of a wave anywhere on the planet — even two times the size of one in that pool — that had given me the same kind of anxiety. So I asked around. Why is everyone, from Average Joe to a CT competitor, so nervous about a head-high wave?
“Every time a wave comes you know it’s a 10. There are all the opportunities you need to make your scores. And if you don’t then it’s on your mind,” Johanne Defay told me.
Filipe Toledo agreed. There’s nowhere else in the world where we know we’re about to be delivered a perfect wave. And if you mess it up, bog a turn, pick the wrong line in the wrong moment, well, that’s on you.
It gives a touch of perspective to an interesting trivia fact about Championship Tour events at The Ranch: nobody’s ever scored a perfect 10 on Kelly’s perfect wave. There have been a gaggle of nine-point rides but not a single 10 in three CT contests. According to the WSL, Carissa Moore has the highest women’s score with a 9.43 and Gabriel Medina owns the highest men’s score with a 9.93.
“This competition by itself is a lot of pressure,” Toledo explained. “There’s not that strategy going in the water of hassling somebody, getting priority, and putting them on bad waves. Here it’s just a mental game. You have your line in your head, you put your turns together however you visualize everything’s gonna work.”
Some fans love having the Ranch on tour, some hate it. But the mental challenge it brings to the field is definitely a unique and compelling factor athletes aren’t finding anywhere else on the schedule. Zero 10-point rides so far, still waiting to see our first.