Rainbow Takeoffs and Funnels of Fun at Kelly Slater Surf Ranch

surf trip May 02, 2024

[highlights video below]

“This is the last year I will run this,” is always what I say a few weeks before each Kelly Slater Surf Ranch trip. The amount of financial, logistical, and anticipatory stress I endure would put any cardiologist on call.

And yet, each year, I am utterly blown away with the feeling of joy and fulfillment the aftermath brings.

Simply looking at the happiness on the faces of the participants is enough to make me do it all over again.


On top of seeing their ecstatic faces after each wave, it seems the pre-trip training has proved successful once again (and was so close to the 90% benchmark I set as a goal each year).

Not only did this group register the highest Priority takeoff success rate at 88%, but they improved immensely in both the Pro and Poach takeoff zones (80% and 85% respectively).

AND, of the participants on this year’s trip, only five surfers had previously taken the pre-trip Take Off Training and Preparation Course I conduct. That is less than a third of the group. I’m incredibly proud of this group for putting in the effort and discipline prior to the trip to make the most of their experience.


Up until this point, I’ve set up four split wave heats, meaning surfers get to surf four times throughout the trip and surf half of the full wave each time (25 second rides!).

The advantages of split wave format are:

  • Increased quality repetition
  • Focus on one particular section of the wave
  • Focus on one to two specific maneuvers (turn and/or barrel)
  • Lower stress levels
  • Less wait time between wave attempts
  • Surf more frequently throughout the trip

However, this year, I made some changes. Namely:

  • 3-surfer heats – full wave (with possible split wave option)
  • Add-on regular split wave heat
  • Add-on 3-surfer heat

The first two heats of each surfer’s trip were the same – two split wave heats, switching the side of the basin each heat (meaning they get to surf the entire pool going left and right but split into parts).

This trip, for the last two heats, I combined them instead. Meaning, I took two split wave heats and combined them into one full wave heat with only three priority surfers in the basin at once.


For one thing, having only three priority surfers in the basin at any given time makes it feel like you own the place since everyone is spread out so much. That’s just such a unique feeling.

Each 3-surfer heat was full wave by default, providing the surfer with the opportunity to feel what a 50 second ride is like. I have my own opinion on how that is much too long of a wave (surfers safety surf too much to improve their surfing, full wave exponentially increases the stress levels, etc.) but I wanted to let surfers have the option to have that experience.

However, each 3-surfer heat had the option to run split wave as well (this was the option I chose). With split wave, you get double the waves, with only three priority surfers in the basin. To give you an idea of the flow throughout the heat, a surfer would surf, surf, rest, surf, surf, rest, repeat for an entire hour. That’s without poaching! If a surfer poached, it might be something like surf, surf, surf (poach), surf, surf, rest, surf, surf, surf (poach), surf, surf, rest, etc.

These 3-surfer heats provided an increase in poaching opportunities for all, as well as the chance to surf full wave. Some groups would surf a handful of split waves before ending with a few full waves so they could enjoy the best of both worlds.

The flow of the day with coaching, video review, physical therapy (by expert PhD physical therapist and past co-host of the Dropping In Surf Show with me, Jim Cegelnik), board review and discovery (by 30-yr veteran shaper Wally Puha of Pyzel and Channel Island surfboards), and general relaxation (hot tub, lounging, eating, drinking, biking, etc. – all the wonderful Surf Ranch amenities) was a much more pleasant experience not having to rush between heats.

Lastly, surfers had the chance to add-on extra heats (regular split or 3-surfer split) to get even more reps in.


The weather kept us on our toes but the wonderful thing about wavepools is that there’s always a wave offshore. The clouds, rain, sun, and rainbows made the entire trip memorable, as did the incredible rides.

I can’t recall a trip where there were so many epic barrels ridden. Some were first time barrels, others were more established. But all came with a huge grin and happy superlative. Even I slayed a section of the pool that I have had trouble with in past trips and couldn’t help myself by letting out a not so subtle claim.

Peace signs, tongues, fists, and the simple ear-to-ear grin. We saw them all and they were welcomed with enthusiasm.

My sincere thanks to the surf guides and jet ski drivers at Surf Ranch for their utter dedication to stoking out any surfer that arrives.

Deep thanks go out to Barry Green, Jim Cegelnik, Wally Puha who added so much value to the trip as surf coach, PT and board expert.

And finally, to all the surfers who came. You are now Surf Ranch Alumni and I truly hope this trip goes down in your memory banks as one of the most superb experiences ever.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the water…

Previous Surf Ranch blog posts:

Pre-Trip Surf Ranch Takeoff and Paddling Training Increases Probabilities of Making Waves

Gaining an Advantage at Surf Ranch

Learning Curves at the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch

All photos by the very talented and hard working Casey Figlewicz

To learn more about the Paddling Technique Level 1, Level 2, or Surf Trips, please reach out!


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