When I first spoke to Donnie about the project, I was driving back to class from a surf session at Seaside Reef, San Diego. I distinctly remember talking about how crowded the spot was and how we could use that as a way to showcase the surf skate product “Hamboards” and maybe an idea for a women's film festival. We spoke about having a surf session at the ranch, we wanted to emphasize the idea of my own “private wave”.
The premise would be about a California girl frustrated with the overcrowded beaches of California, after a frustrating surf session she drifts off to sleep. In her “dream” the girl goes into a trance where she surfs the wave pool trying out different equipment, different crafts, and maneuvers. She is having the time of her life surfing perfect waves at Kelly Slater's Wave pool, smiling from ear to ear until she wakes up. After she realizes that her experience was “just a dream” she goes outside to skate with her friends creating her own “ private wave”.
I didn’t know the logistics if this project would happen because Kelly Slater's Wave Pool is a very coveted location and only a select group of either wealthy people or pro surfers have access to. We confirmed our schedule time at Kelly Slater's wave pool only a couple months down the line after our first conversation. I was ecstatic, I couldn’t believe that I was going to a place that seemed out of my reach at the time. I have watched endless videos about this wave since Kelly documented his first ride on the wave machine. I did not contain my excitement when I found out I was going to the pool.
A couple weeks down the line, I had heard there was a chance that we could not go on the ranch or we might need to go next time. I was somewhat disappointed but miraculously we were able to figure out a new time to go to the ranch. Again all of the excited emotions came rushing back. I bragged to my friends about it after of course, r I found out that the appointment to the wave ranch was one hundred percent confirmed. I felt like the most blessed human, I felt like I could dance all night when I received the confirmation from the ranch. I can say without hesitation that surfing is an addiction.
I remember that it was only a couple weeks after my birthday when we got to the ranch. It took my dad and I around three hours to get there from my house in Topanga, California. I could not sleep the night before, it didn't seem like it was real or it felt like I was going on a remote trip. We drove inland which seemed like to be in the middle of nowhere. I could see small towns, country towns, and ranches as I went from county to county. The air was dry and cold, it almost felt like I was heading to snowboard in Mammoth instead of going surfing .
I fell asleep for most of the car ride because of my restless night and before I knew it we were driving into the town of Lemoore. As we checked into the hotel, I noticed that the hotel was also a “native american themed” casino. The hotel was decorated as if we were in a history museum mixed with a dave and busters, those two styles of decor and architecture do not mix well together in my opinion. I remember the smell in the casino, a potent mixture of cigarettes and booze.
My dad thought that we should explore the casino since we got to the hotel earlier than expected. We walked around and noticed that the meals were fairly cheap, there were a lot of people of hispanic descent, and the tension was extremely high. This casino wasn’t glamorous like Las Vegas in the Bellagio, this place looked like a place of desperation. I saw people clinging onto the slots as if they blew their last bit of their savings away .
The casino didn’t feel like entertainment instead the slots seemed like a necessity. I couldn't watch it anymore , I had to go to sleep because we had to be at the ranch at 6 am sharp the next morning. Somehow I fell fast asleep.
I woke up to a foggy morning, I got out of bed as fast as I could and I shook my dad to get up. We rushed out of the hotel as fast as we could down to the lobby, into the car, and on the road in a matter of minutes. We didn’t realize how close the surf ranch was to the hotel, we waited for twenty minutes in the car before we started to see more cars showing up. It felt like a dream, everything was very hazy and fog was hovering over the ground. The Surf Ranch looked like a small modern cabin like a country club and it felt like it too.
As we walked through the doors all I could see were rows of firewire surfboards from one side of the room to the other in between the lockers with our names on each one. We walked through the first room and into the second room which had a T.V and a catering set up on the side table. The table had the most elegant looking avocado toast I have ever seen, beautifully executed with other snacks like hummus, coffee, and fruit. It was one of the best hospitality I have ever experienced, better than the four seasons, the hilton, the estancia hotel, and the ritz carlton.
This hospitality was at one hundred percent, the staff told us what to expect while surfing, showed us the jacuzzi, jam room for playing music, and they were always around to answer questions. The curation of design at the Ranch was amazing, it had country vibes with mid century modern elements in the architecture. Everything seemed perfectly placed and everyone's stoke level was off the charts.
The wave itself looked fake , it was something we would day dream about during class or when the waves are flat. I have never seen perfection in a wave like this, no ripples and completely glassy. During the first morning session the fog was starting to disappear which gave a luminous color from the sun peeking through the fog and glistening onto the water. It looked like we had just found paradise despite the extremely cold weather. I was grouped with three people on one side of the pool while the other three were located on the other side of the pool.
I was grouped with two frothy groms which wasn't ideal but fortunately I could keep up with them. We went back and forth for an hour, I switched off with as many boards as I could. I went from a shortboard, to a fish, to a longboard, to a fun board because I wanted to make the most out of this opportunity. I wanted to get the most footage and utilize my time at the ranch as best as I could hour to hour.
The way the wave is set up is that each person gets a chance to surf from one end of the pool starting at a colored flag to another colored flag then the next person goes or each person gets two waves per session all the way from one side to the other.Our group chose to split the waves so we all could have more time surfing and to have less risks of messing up a perfect wave at Kelly Slater's Wave Pool. I caught so many waves that day but my best session was my last when I got the wave more dialed in.
What people don’t understand when they first get on their first wave is that it is not like the ocean, every area is calculated like the tube section. Naturally, surfers are used to figuring out what type of section will be next in order to carry out a maneuver. When surfing the wave pool, each section is already there and there's no need to look for “the barrel section” or “ when to turn '' because it is the same every time just like a skate park.
After a long four hours of surfing the wave pool I felt one of the happiest I have felt in a long time with non stop waves for 4 hours to myself. I remember my smile going from ear to ear after I caught my last wave in during sunset hour. After the group left the pool, we had an amazing dinner to top off an amazing day. I played the guitar while eating some cookies with the group, we said our goodbyes, and we were off to a long three hour drive but this experience was something I’ll never forget.