Mike's View On Kelly’s Pool


No doubt by now you have witnessed the clip of Mike Stewart tearing Kelly’s beloved wave-pool apart. If not, (you must be living under a rock.. but don’t worry) you don’t have too look far, it’s right here for your viewing pleasure!

At 55 years young, the icon of our sport made The Surf Ranch look like child’s play, as he took turns drawing ridiculously smooth lines, throwing buckets and spending long stints, sitting comfortably inside the man-made tubes.

After a week or so of recovering from what we had witnessed, we sat down with Mike to have a chat about what he experienced in the Californian Desert and what wave-pools mean for the future of wave riding.

MM: So Mike, how long was the drive from LAX and what did you see along the way?

MS: It’s about a four hour drive through dry, almost desert like farm land.

Is it literally in the middle of nowhere?

It certainly feels that way. There is not a lot going on out there other than this obscure aquatic oasis that if you didn’t know was there, you would drive right by it.

Is it a fully staffed facility? What goes on as soon as you enter? (All we can imagine is this 'red-carpet' type vibe)

They really have made this into a nice resort style vibe. They have done such a great job to think of everything and not just the wave, but the overall experience is top notch. The sort of place where you can’t think of too much more to improve on. If I lived in Cali, I would be thinking of ways to get groups together to go there as often as possible.

Is there an instructional video you watch or a safety briefing before you get into the pool?

There is and I wish I watched it before hand it would have saved me half the day trying to figure it out. Also being skegless. I actually had a lot of fun getting pushed up the large domed curb that I later found out is actually quite dangerous. There are large curved steel snorkels on the top, that you can run into going as fast as you do when you get shot up the beach on a beach break. Towards the afternoon I had to hit the brakes hard.

When you first hopped into the water, waiting to catch your very first wave, what were you thinking about? 

 I guess I just felt really excited to try something so different. I also didn’t want to completely kook it either so add a little nervousness.

Were you watching other surfers’ clips of the pool leading up to your visit?

I did watch some clips but not a whole lot. It’s usually pretty hard to tell what’s going on, energy wise, from a wave from a vid. I also wanted to try to just concentrate on riding what was actually there versus what I thought was there based on a clip. 

 Can you tell us about your first wave?

This wave is unlike anything I have surfed. The way the wave is made just gives it a very unique feel. My first wave ran away from me and I immediately just felt the strongest urge to get another one and figure this thing out. 

We heard this was your second attempt at getting to the pool, tell us about how you missed out the first time?

 I missed my flight by minutes due to some vehicle issues. I called Kelly and he said come the next day. So, I just went to the beach with my family. As soon as I arrived there was a multi person rescue going on with a short board surfer trying to help but he could not grab and paddle, so it wasn’t going great. My son who is a strong swimmer was already trying to help everyone in from the current. A large overweight and completely unfit tourist was about to try to help and began to fumble into the water but would have for sure made matters worse. I barked at him to stay on the beach. Once we eventually got everyone in, there was one victim that was half conscious and a couple other people positioned him on his back. I got him onto his side and shortly after he started to vomit. I don’t think he would have made it if he choked on his expelled debris. 

 How long did you have in the pool that day?

 I got there around 10 am and rode until about 5:30pm.

Who were you with for the day?

I went there with my son Kaimana. And met up with Eddy Vedder, his daughter, his brother and managers.

Did you bodysurf any waves?

I tried to but was so preoccupied with trying to figure it out that I didn’t bodysurf that many waves.

Did you get to ride the left as well? If so, which one was better?

 I preferred the right for sure. It seemed hollower.

What are your thoughts of the Surf Ranch wave, in terms of functionality for a bodyboard? 

It was challenging. The wave is hollow but tends to run away from you. I didn’t feel like I could easily do a lip move without sacrificing the section. I think this is more a factor of learning how to ride it then the wave itself. 

Do you think Kelly's pool is the best park for a bodyboard or is there another wave-pool that you would prefer to try?

I would say the overall experience is hard to beat. The wave is super fun. In regard to how it compares to other waves; when I have an opportunity to surf the other technology, I will be able to make a better comparison. 

Can you see wave-pools being as common as say, the local town pool, in 20-30 years’ time?

In the mid 80s, I started surfing various pools, in fact I even help design some. But they were real small. Back then as is the case today they are relatively expensive attractions. So, it gets down to how many customers can pay to enjoy these and if that pays for the wave.

In the future, could you see folk who have never actually ridden a real wave in the ocean, shredding on these man-made waves?

 So long as the financial barrier exist this will be slow to happen. However, as soon as these become more prolific and the cost get lower there will be a new era of wave riders, some never surfing the ocean.

Do you think these wave-pools have a place in the competitive side of our sport, on the APB World Tour?

Yes. Maybe in the not-too-distant future. I have already had a number of contests in wave-pools that are quite small.

Who would you love to see riding at The Surf Ranch next?

Sammy or Tanner. Someone light and explosive.

What was the most important thing you learned from your experience at The Surf Ranch?

Man-made paradise is possible.