Surf Meets Scuba in the Middle of Farmland

A surfer’s dream… smack dab in the middle of some of the nation’s richest farmland is an unlikely place to find some of the world’s best surf riding waves. That is exactly where Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch ( is located, 200 kilometers (130 miles) inland from the California coast.

The Surf Ranch has been a dream of Slater’s for a very long time, to create a man-made wave that can be changed to meet the demands of the surfer. The lake is 600 meters (2,000 feet) long and the ride can last close to one minute. Waves at the Surf Ranch can reach 2 meters (6.5 feet) and be adjusted to beginner, intermediate and advanced surfers.

With the help of more than 150 truck tires, a 100-ton hydrofoil called “The Vehicle” runs down a track into the lake at about 30 kilometers per hour (18 miles per hour). To build and maintain the machine that creates the wave requires employees to work underwater.

The management knew it would be best for their own employees to do the work, so they reached out to Aqua Sports LLC (NAUI affiliate CAP01716), in Fresno, California, to get their people scuba certified. Lead by Bryant “Bear” Johnston (NAUI Instructor 57647) and

assisted by Michael Fitzgerald (NAUI Instructor 59412), nine of the staff at the Surf Ranch went through NAUI’s Scuba Diver training this past winter. Underwater maintenance, repairs, and recovery of items is a weekly task for them.

Located in rural farmland, the Surf Ranch is not close to a major city for emergency medical services, so management at the Surf Ranch also wanted their staff to be medically trained in the event of an injury. Because the employees were required to work underwater, the Surf Ranch reached out again to the staff at Aqua Sports for their first aid training. This time Fitzgerald, a forme

r combat veteran, took the lead, assisted by Johnston, and put the staff through NAUI’s, Diving First Aid for Professional Divers (DFA Pro) powered by DAN.

Scuba training will continue for the Surf Ranch employees. Several have expressed interest in NAUI’s advanced diver course, while two of the workers are planning one day to complete their NAUI Divemaster certification so that they can better supervise the underwater work.

A great time and learning experience — for students and instructors alike.