LEMOORE, California (Reuters) – Surfing rides into a new era this weekend as the world’s best compete on artificial waves in the World Surf League (WSL) Founders’ Cup team event.
Kelly Slater, the American 11-times world champion who owned the Surf Ranch in this agricultural community before selling it to the WSL in 2016, says the wave-making technology creates an even playing field.
“Everyone has, really, the same wave, the same canvas to paint on, if you will, and perform on,” he told Reuters on Friday.
“So it comes down to who utilizes their different skills and their different techniques in a better way.”
Five, five-person teams — the United States, Australia, Brazil, Europe and the World — will compete on Saturday and Sunday in what the WSL bills as its first team event.
Slater will captain the American team, while 2014 world champion Gabriel Medina will spearhead the Brazil team.
Each team will comprise three men and two women.
“Surfing has always been such an individual sport, but we’ve always had such a country camaraderie between everybody and to come and do a teams event is really cool,” Australian captain Stephanie Gilmore said.
Organisers say a wave will be created every four minutes, for an average ride of about 45 or 50 seconds.
Portions of the event will be televised live on network television in the United States, where surfing rarely if ever reaches a mass audience.
Writing by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford