Kelly’s (Slater) wave pool
I knew a couple of months before the WSL Founder’s cup of surfing that I would be in the World team and heading to Lemoore to compete at the famous ‘Surf Ranch’ that the even more famous Kelly Slater had created. Even after driving 3hours inland and practicing there for four days before the event, it still never really sunk in that a dream had come true and I was there doing it.
I had watched loads of footage from other lucky surfers that had been there before me, it looked amazing but I made sure I kept my expectations low so I wouldn’t get disappointed. With just the buffet five star wedding style food every day, my expectations of the place had been well exceeded.
Practice days two,three and four got busier and busier and thats when I truely appreciated my very first day there when it was just me and one other girl, Taina Hinkel (Brasil). Especially when Taina had jetlag and had a nap, so I had the whole pool and ranch to myself! With a wave breaking every 3 minutes and 50 seconds and the wave being about a 50 second ride, it was no wonder my legs felt like jelly very quickly. My body wanted to stop but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I knew that this was a chance in a lifetime and that some people will pay between 10k-50k for one day so I kept surfing left, right, left, right.
Almost my best and favourite memory about the pool is actually the guy on the jetski. Raimana from Tahiti. You can hear him yelling in some of my first practice videos I’ve uploaded on my social media (instsgram: @paigehareb facebook: /paige.hareb twitter: @paigehareb) “now, now, now. Hit it! Go, go, go”. His yelling may put some people off but he was the best help I could of ever asked for. He works there most of the year so he sees everyone surf it and would of gone up and down that pool on the jetski closer to 1000 times than 100. You probably wouldn’t believe it after my 13ish second backhand barrel but I couldn’t backside barrel that well. Raimana helped me a lot with that and sounded a long the lines of (speak in Tahitian accent) “Hey babe, look you do this and this and this OK?” He would constantly and patiently repeat then finish with a fun, big fat “LOVE YOU” before I caught my next wave. To have someone that knowledgable and positive was priceless! Thankyou Raimana! Love you!!!
Then we got to competition day. My whole plan was to get two good scores in the first round so all the pressure could be taken off. The plan worked! I got a couple of high seven point rides and going into round two my next goal was to improve on my score. The plan worked again! This was when I got my best right of the contest consisting of that 13 second backhand barrel gaining me a 8.33 ride. What a feeling! Round three none of us got high scores apart from our World team captain Jordy Smith (ZAF) and Kanoa Igarashi (JPN). Halfway through the round we thought we weren’t going to make the top 3 teams but somehow ended up third equal with Team Australia. This meant we had to have a ‘surf off’ to see who would go through to the final round. The surf off was different with only one male and female surfing from each team and only one wave each. Talk about pressure! Team World’s captain, Jordy decided we would go first and get scores under our belt whether it was a 9 or a 4 he figured they would have something to chase.
With the way the pool and the wave works, a left breaks down the pool one way then about four minutes later a right breaks back down the pool the other way. So this day they always had it starting with the left first. Jordy wanted to surf right so that meant I had to surf left, which also meant I was the very first surfer out of all four surfers in the surf off. Pressure! I locked in another seven point ride for Jordy to back it up with another nine something. Next up was Team Australia’s Tyler Wright and Matt “Wilko” Wilkinson to try and beat our scores. Wilko was up first on the left, starting strong but fell before halfway and only ended up getting a four point ride. This meant that even if Tyler got a 10 point ride, Team Australia still couldn’t take down Team World. Woohoo! In the finals baby!
We really felt like we were the underdogs all event especially up against Team Australia with the most World Champions and World Titles in one team. So just making the final against Team Brasil and USA was a bonus. For me it was all a bit of a blur, the only two times I fell was in the final and even though I still managed a seven something, I was still feeling very bummed that I had let the team down. The three teams carried on going through their surfers, including USA’s John John Florence who ended up falling too (which made me feel a bit better haha).
You couldn’t of scripted the contest any better. It came down to the last wave and surfer who was none other than the man himself, Kelly Slater. If he got more than a seven Team World would win but if he got more than a 9.27 then team World would end up third and Team Brasil and USA would have a surf off. Before Kelly started surfing the wave, team mate Bianaca Buitendag (ZAF) and I couldn’t stop looking at each other and giggling in complete shock and asking each other “how did we get here? Is team World going to win right now?! Are we going to win?!”
Kelly surfed the wave to perfection right down to coming out of the last barrel section at the end but instead of just doing a safe turn (which we all thought he would of got more than 9.27 if he did) he tried to do some fly away air and didn’t land causing him to get a high eight and therefore making Team World win the first ever WSL Founder’s Cup! Unbelievable! The whole week was is still unbelievable in my eyes. With lots of positive comments from competitors and even from Kelly saying how well I did, I honestly don’t know what to say but I can’t wait to head back there again for the WCT event in September.