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Surf Ranch Florida Proposal Moves One Step Closer to Reality

Steph Gilmore KS Wave Co | Surf Ranch Florida Palm Beach County

Stephanie Gilmore at Kelly Slater Wave Company’s R&D Location in Lemoore, CA. Photo: KS Wave Co

More details are emerging on Surf Ranch Florida, a man-made surfing lake in Palm Beach County endorsed by surfing champion Kelly Slater.

County commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved plans for the county to evaluate the proposed surf school and make recommendations for approval later this summer.

During a presentation to the county, representatives of Surf Ranch Florida revealed the project would:

  • offer an athletic training center for competitive surfers, a community surfing school, programs for underprivileged youth and a learning center.
  • bring in an estimated 83,000 guests annually, and create hundreds of jobs.
  • lure thousands of spectators for surfing competitions presented by the World Surf League, a governing body for professional surfers.

The league, which organizes pro surfing competitions, has plans that call for a roughly 2,000-foot-long artificial lake near Jupiter Farms, about 8 miles from the nearest beach.

The league acquired the Kelly Slater Wave Co. and its wave-making technology last year. When the proposal for a center in Palm Beach County came to light earlier this month, Slater said in a statement he was excited the center would open in his home state of Florida.

“I’m hopeful this will become a reality soon,” said Slater, a Cocoa Beach native.

Slater first shared the artificial wave with the world in a 2015 video showing him riding a flawless, tubular, head-high wave.

Brian Waxman, project leader for Surf Ranch Florida, said the World Surf League is considering bringing the wave lake to the Sunshine State for its weather and heritage of world-class surfers.

The surf league is proposing a $50 million capital investment, said Ken Tuma, an urban planner who spoke to the commission on behalf of the World Surf League.

Tuma said the surf league doesn’t have exact dimensions for the wave planned at the ranch.

It would encompass an 80-acre industrial lot east of Jupiter Farms, near the Pine Glades natural area.

For the project to move forward, the county would need to rezone the land from industrial to commercial.

That has some Jupiter Farms locals concerned.

“Our industrial lands are valuable and this land should be industrial,” said Susan Kennedy, president of the Jupiter Farms Environmental Council.

Local chapters of the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club said the school would bring additional traffic, noise, light and possible water pollution to the Pine Glades Natural Area — 6,700 acres of protect wetlands. “I think what’s being created here is a fantasy,” said Scott Zucker, vice president of the Audubon Society of the Everglades.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said it’s too early in the process to consider the noise and light pollution, which she said could be mitigated by limiting the hours of operation, among other actions.

McKinlay said the surf school would be more environmentally friendly than the other industrial alternatives, such as canneries, junkyards or manufacturing plants.

“In my opinion, I would rather see a big hole filled with water than a big hole filled with fuel tanks,” she said.

Article originally published by Ryan Van Velzer at the Sun Sentinel.

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