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The World Surf League Just Bought Kelly Slater’s Wave Pool

When the surfing world saw that first artificial wave begin to break and peel down the line in a large green pool in regional California, it shed one giant collective tear of joy. Here’s what last night’s news means for competitive surfing.

In case you missed it, Kelly Slater recently unveiled the Kelly Slater Wave Company – a project that he's invested a whole lot of time and energy into over the last few years. Last night it all paid off.

When the surfing world saw that first artificial wave begin to break and peel down the line in a large green pool in regional California, it shed one giant collective tear of joy. Kelly Slater created what is, by far, the most perfect, pristine, powerful and realistic artificial wave ever made.


In the weeks that followed the unveiling, Kelly invited multiple colleagues, friends and World Tour competitors to come trial the wave – releasing individual clips for each surfer. Again, the surf world lost its mind. People were asking… what does this mean for surfing? Does this mean that surfing can realistically become an Olympic sport? What about a World Tour event in the wave pool!? Or is Kelly going to harbour the perfection for himself? The questions, and options, remained seemingly endless.

Until last night. Last night the World Surf League announced that its parent company, WSL Holdings, acquired a majority stake in the Kelly Slater Wave Company. They said, "The WSL and the KSWC envision the build-out of global network of WSL-branded high-performance training centres utilising this wave technology." They also insinuated that although "the ocean will always be our home, and the great waves on tour will always remain the backbone" of the competitive schedule, the acquisition of the wave offered up new opportunities for events in a man-made environment. AKA, they want to hold an event in the wave pool.

Kelly says the announcement brought his two separate worlds together. "While surfing for me will always be about adventure, travel and the ocean, this wave brings a new opportunity to the sport without taking away the soulfulness that attracted many of us to surfing in the first place. It's beyond my dreams that this wave will be a canvas for the global advancement of this great sport in partnership with the WSL. It will democratise surfing and provide incredible training opportunities for athletes as well as aspirational surfers in areas with no ocean waves."


So, does this mean that we'll see a World Tour event in the wave pool? We asked the WSL, and they weren't able to comment. But they were able to say that they will likely be making announcements in the near future about next steps, and that the Commissioner's Office has been discussing the possibility of a wave pool event with athletes for most of the year. "Feedback has ranged and all has been accepted."

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But from the looks of things, the only reason WSL Holdings would spend the cash on the KSWC would be to hold an event – and, perhaps, to open training facilities for athletes and (landlocked) public.

We asked 3x World Champion Carissa Moore what she thought about the idea of a wave pool event. She said that she thinks there is room for one wave pool event per year on tour. "That would really mix things up in a good way," she said.

And she's probably right. But it would mean that the judging criteria would need to change. As World Tour surfer Lakey Peterson commented, "Every wave is the same, and they'd have to judge it differently somehow. It's like, what are you going to score if everyone is getting three minute barrels?"

So as of last night, we kinda know there are plans for a wave pool event on the World Tour. The question remains, however… Olympics, anyone?