Pro Surfer Kelly Slater Building Surf Ranch In Palm Beach County
Professional surfer Kelly Slater — the 11-time world champ — got the go-ahead last week from the Palm Beach County Commission to construct a man-made wave pool on 80 acres at the Palm Beach Park of Commerce on Beeline Highway, near Jupiter Farms.
The commission amended the Unified Land Development Code to establish a "regional recreation pod" and allow outdoor entertainment, making way for Slater's facility.
Slater's partner in the venture is billionaire Dirk Ziff, heir to a publishing fortune and a North Palm Beach resident. Ziff's California-based WSL Holdings owns the World Surf League, the governing body of pro surfing, and last year bought a majority stake in the Kelly Slater Wave Co., which has been pioneering man-made wave technology for a decade.
This summer, representatives for Surf Ranch Florida, as the new facility will be known, told commissioners during a presentation that the project would offer training for competitive surfers, surfing lessons and programs for underprivileged kids. They said it would bring in an estimated 83,000 guests annually and the WSL could organize surf contests at the site.
The facility would feature a 2,000-foot-long, man-made wave pool that has machine-generated "perfect waves." Slater has a similar project in Lemoore, California. It has so far only hosted private events but is slated to begin public events next year.
In nature, waves are unequal and unpredictable, so surfing competitions depend upon a lot of variables. Wave pools will be instrumental in creating consistent conditions and are considered key to the future of surfing as a competitive, spectator, TV-friendly sport. Surfing is set to debut as an Olympic sport in 2020.
Some local environmentalists initially expressed concern about the Florida project, because it is near the Pine Glades Natural Area — 6,700 acres of protected wetlands. But reports said that no one spoke against the project at last week's meeting, and the commission voted for it unanimously Oct. 26.
It is expected to open in 2019.