Live surfing returns with surprise finalists in the Rumble at the Ranch

The event brought an innovative new competition format, a tearful goodbye to a surfing legend, and a rare look at four future Olympians. 

By Aidan McKevitt

After more than six months without professional surfing, the World Surf League was finally able to hold The Rumble at the Ranch, its first competitive event since March!

The long-awaited return to live action on Sunday (9th August) followed the cancellation of competitions due to the coronavirus pandemic, and involved a new mixed team format.

The duo of Filipe Toledo from Brazil and Hawaiian Coco Ho claimed victory and a $10,000 prize, that they decided to donate to the Surfrider Foundation.

They faced off against Kanoa Igarashi and Tatiana Weston-Webb in a final that surprised everyone. Ultimately, Toledo saved the best for last by nailing two alley-oops on his final run of the day, securing a 9.67, the best single wave score of the entire event.

A unique format for a new surfing event

The Rumble at the Ranch took place at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California and featured 16 of the top male and female pro surfers living in the United States.

They competed in gender mixed teams of two in an innovative new competition format.

Unlike the traditional multi-day heat format that we know from the WSL, the world’s best competed in a nonstop, high stakes showdown over the course of just a few hours. Instead of 30-minute heats in the water, surfers advanced through the face-off with exactly four waves per team, two rights and two lefts.

The perfect machine-made waves of the Surf Ranch provided an open canvas for an impressive mix of power surfing, barrel riding, and aerial manoeuvres that surf fans had been missing since the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns.

From veterans to newcomers: who made the cut?

The line-up was as diverse as ever, featuring everyone from veteran World Champions to tour rookies ready to make their mark. However regardless of age or experience, the Surf Ranch was busting with talent.

Fans streaming the event live saw future Olympic surfers Kanoa Igarashi of Japan and Caroline Marks of the USA go head-to-head in a rare match up.

There was also a clash of titans when Kelly Slater and Carissa Moore faced off, bringing 15 world championships and 43 years of competitive surfing experience to the water.

And a new generation of pro stars were on show, with surfers from Brazil, Japan, and the USA making it to the final round, by advancing past some of the top surfers of the past decade.

Who has qualified to surf at the Olympics?

Of the 16 surfers competing, four have already earned their spot at Tokyo 2020.

  • Representing Team USA will be long time competitor and California native Kolohe Andino. Get to know the “humble, hardworking guy” who may have the talent to rule the world of surfing one day by watching our feature on Kolohe.
  • The face of Japanese surfing and a local favourite at Tokyo 2020, Kanoa Igarashi put on a show at The Ranch, and intends to do the same next summer.
  • When it comes to Women’s surfing, the name Carissa Moore needs little introduction. The 27 year-old looks forward to bringing 4 world championships and 12 years of competitive surfing experience to Team USA.
  • At just 18 years old, Caroline Marks will be the youngest surfer on Team USA. The Florida native’s long-term goal is to go from youngest to ever qualify for the Women’s Championship Tour to World No.1.

When is the next surfing event?

In July the World Surf League announced the formal cancellation of the 2020 season, after being unable to run the first six tour events due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Live surfing will instead return with opening of the 2020/21 season in Hawaii this November for the women, and December for the men.

Honouring one of Hawaii’s most influential surfers

Last month, the surfing world was turned upside down with the passing of legendary waterman, world champion, and “King of Pipeline,” Derek Ho. In an ode to his legacy, Coco Ho not only won the event but conducted a beautiful ceremony to celebrate the life of her late uncle.

The ceremony began with a traditional paddle out in true Hawaiian custom, followed by a symbolic unridden wave to mark his passing. To close the ceremony Coco surfed a wave solo, scoring the barrel of the day, which was then followed by an all-competitor party wave to represent “Uncle Ho’s” famous Aloha Spirit.

After the ceremony Ho returned to the rest area and admitted that was the first time she had ever cried on a wave and how much everyone’s support and love meant to her and her family.