Some of the world's best surfers gathered recently to ride some of the world's most innovative waves. But they weren't on a beach — in fact, they were surrounded by farmland about 100 miles away from the closest Pacific shore.
The whole point of Surf Ranch, though, is that you don't need to be at the beach to catch the perfect wave.
Kelly Slater spent several years and $30 million to build what's being dubbed the world's longest open-barrel artificial wave right in the middle of California's San Joaquin Valley.
Slater's initial plans came with mixed reactions from the surfing community. Slater hopes that the innovative facility will help open up elite surfing to a new crowd.
In a similar way to how artificial snowy halfpipes can lead to jaw-dropping choreographed performances from professional skiers, manufactured waves could help surfers design incredible routines that draw a new, rapt audience.
Another selling point is the Surf Ranch's unique ability to help professionals train.
In the ocean, the waves are unpredictable, but at the ranch, surfers can ride preprogrammed waves of different sizes, where they know what to expect.
In that way, they can hone their technique, the same way a basketball player might practice hundreds of free throws in a row to perfect their shot.
But even Slater understood that surfing manufactured waves might alienate the people who love surfing for its wild, unpredictable waves and proximity to the open ocean.
In an Instagram post, Slater himself wondered, "What have we done here and what does it mean for surfing? Is it the best thing ever or is it some weird door we can't shut? Will people love it or hate us for it?"
Early opinions are in, and luckily, there doesn't seem to be too much hate.
After the Founders Cup event there in May, several surfers reported back via social media or to surfing blogs.
Many noted that while nothing could replace the real ocean, the Surf Ranch was a cool experience with a lot of opportunity to grow into something even cooler.