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Surfers head inland this weekend to compete in the first ever World Surf League team competition. Inland? What are they thinking? From member station KVPR, Laura Tsutsui brings us this from Lemoore, Calif.
LAURA TSUTSUI, BYLINE: Eleven-time World Surf League champion Kelly Slater has built what he calls the perfect wave in the middle of the Golden State. At Slater's Surf Ranch, you almost feel like you're at the beach, except these waves are made by a machine. And they've been engineered to be perfect for surfing every time. The facility features a man-made lake that's as long as seven football fields and patented wave-making technology developed by a team of engineers and surfers.
For the first time this weekend the, ranch is open to the public to watch some of the best surfers in the world ride these perfect waves. Lemoore is known for its hot climate and agriculture. Kelly Slater says he built the Surf Ranch simply because the planning stars aligned.
KELLY SLATER: We were just looking for a place that had ample land and water and the right permitting and access to the amount of energy we needed to run the wave.
TSUTSUI: He also says having this wave pool will even the playing field for surfers.
SLATER: In terms of luck and the ocean, you know, you're dealing with Mother Nature, and this person or that person might get that good wave. This eliminates that, so it comes down to more of a performance thing.
TSUTSUI: Up until now, the Surf Ranch has been hidden behind a fence with glimpses coming only from social media. But once you get inside, it looks like a resort. Cabanas line three sides of the lake. The waves are created when a 200-ton massive shovel of metal shaped like the hull of a ship pushes through the water over a fake reef designed right into the lake. Kolohe Andino, who ranked seventh in the world last year, is surfing for Team USA this weekend. He says to ride these waves feels incredible.
KOLOHE ANDINO: Yeah. It's just super, like, different because you're just in the middle of the desert. You're driving out here. It's just like, whoa, this is so weird. And then you get here, and it's like paradise for a surfer. There's perfect waves and obviously a really nice set up.
TSUTSUI: This event is the first time the World Surf League has ever held a co-ed team competition. There are five teams - USA, Brazil, Australia and then Europe and world - made up of two women and three men each. The competition begins today and will wrap up on Sunday. For NPR News, I'm Laura Tsutsui in Lemoore, Calif.
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