Surfing world title fight on at Kelly Slater's Surf Ranch
Welcome to the Surf Ranch Pro. No beach, no sand dunes, no worries at Kelly Slater's new surf pool.
History will be made this week in Lemoore, California: the World Surf League will award Championship Tour points for the first time at an artificial wave event.
Stop number 8 on the WSL tour takes place from 6-9 September, 160 kilometres inland.
The best surfers on the planet will compete on one consistent wave at the playground created by 11-time world champion Kelly Slater.
The competition is crucial to the world title hopes of several athletes.
Title race heating up
Brazilians have dominated the men’s competition in 2018.
In fact, they hold three of the top five spots on the leaderboard, with four rounds remaining.
Filipe Toledo is currently the front runner with compatriot Gabriel Medina right behind.
Sitting third and in the hunt for his maiden world title is Australia’s Julian Wilson.
It’s the 29-year old's eighth year on the elite surfing tour and he told the Australian.com.au that becoming a father earlier this year has helped him perform better this season.
"There’s real meaning in becoming a father. It’s been a really different year because my wife used to travel a lot, but I’ve had a really steady season and this is definitely my best opportunity (to win a world title)." - Julian Wilson
Brazilian Italo Ferreira is also not far of the pace and joined the other top surfers for some extra training on the artificial wave over the last few days.
Seven for Steph?
It looks like a straight duel for the women's title.
Six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore has had three wins in 2018 and finished runner-up last month at the US Open.
American Lakey Peterson is aiming to deny the Aussie a seventh crown.
The 23-year-old is a close second and this is a crucial competition for the pair.
No three-peat for Tyler
Women’s two-time champion Tyler Wright is no longer able to defend her world title.
The 24-year old has withdrawn from the Surf Ranch Pro due to ongoing illness.
The Australian contracted influenza A while traveling to South Africa for the J-Bay Open in July.
It caused her to lose 8kg.
Wright missed the last two events on the tour and currently sits seventh on the overall standings.
What’s up Kelly Slater?
The 11-time World Champion has pulled out of six events this year sighting an ongoing foot issue.
As the founder of the Surf Ranch, he's expected to compete at his own wave this week, as he did at the Founder’s Cup event in May.
The legendary surfer broke his foot at J-Bay in 2017 and has been battling to compete since.
In June he posted an update explaining:
"I’ve had 5 foot injuries now since 2003, the latest coming last week with a strained ligament." - Kelly Slater
It’s thought he will be given one of the two injury wild cards for the 2019 tour. The other may go to two-time defending champion John John Florence, who has been sidelined with a knee injury.
The 46-year-old told the WSL in July he will give one last shot at a 12th world title next year, before retiring.
"My basic plan is to get myself really healthy, get ready for April next year and make next year be my last year on Tour and just be done with it." - Kelly Slater