Must (Not) Watch: ‘The Ultimate Surfer’

Every other week, a new reality TV show premieres somewhere around the globe.

And while you’d like to pretend you’re above it, you are not. We all have our guilty pleasures and that’s OK. Most often the new show is just season 23 of some fan fav like Survivor or a sort of spin-off from one of the thousand love-centric shows like Love Island. This week a new reality show from the latter category premiered. It’s a spin-off of the late 00’s hit The Ultimate Fighter, except this time it’s a bunch of Instagram models (who I assume can also surf), quarrelling at Kelly Slater’s wave pool.

Unfortunately, that last sentence wasn’t a typo. Fourteen men and women are voluntarily (fuck I hope they’re getting paid well) competing in what might be the cringiest reality TV incarnation yet.

Unless you’re a bloodthirsty masochist I wouldn’t recommend watching the show. Sure, go ahead and watch the trailers for a laugh, but seriously, don’t even consider locking into a whole episode. Coincidentally, I am a bloodthirsty masochist, and even I couldn’t endure the full two episodes.

Sure, surfing has had its ups and downs over the years: the global financial crisis, the WSL’s constant reinventions, the Samsung surfboard, Laird Hamilton, and pretty much everything since Andy Irons passed. But it seems like fourteen tanned yuppies at Pappa Kelly’s surf camp will be the absolute death of it. There’s only so much a sport can take before it succumbs to the shadows where scootering, bodyboarding, and rollerblading lurk.

Episode one kicks off in the usual reality TV style: the contestants arrive one by one in vintage cars and are then introduced as if they were all already on the cusp of competitive surfing stardom. The sad thing, however, is that a handful of them were once legitimate surfers. Zeke Lau was on the tour for a couple of years, and Koa Smith used to surf pretty good, as far as I remember. It’s no coincidence though that their careers took a sharp turn towards social media stardom and daily vlogging before they entered The Ultimate Surfer.

 Anyway, back to the show. In the first few minutes alone it’s brimming with cliches: catty in-fighting, Kelly Slater waxing lyrical via Zoom, a D-list celeb (Jesse Palmer) hosting the antics, and then a fucking bottle washes up on the beach with a message in it instructing the surfers to play ‘spin the bottle’!

Fortunately, the producers didn’t stoop low enough to have the competitors actually swap spit. Instead, the bottle spinning just paired them all up into easy to recognise, coloured teams—and then we dive straight back into the hackneyed scripts. Two surfers who ‘hate each other’ being coincidentally paired as bunk buddies? What are the chances?!

Between all of this, there is actually a little bit of surfing; not much, but probably enough to have the word surfer in the title. However, it’s all edited so haphazardly you’d be stretched to figure out what on earth is actually happening. Although maybe that’s better than watching a wave start to finish at the surf ranch… the Surf Ranch Pro has been axed from the World Tour for a reason.

Eventually, two surfers win (I’m sure you don’t care who), and two teams go into a heated surf-off to decide who will be leaving band camp. Naturally, there’s also a sob story slipped in there and plenty of tears despite all the competitors supposedly hating each other. All in all, it is terribly depressing. Maybe if you didn’t like surfing this would be fun, but if you do like surfing, it’ll hurt too much to endure.

 So, what are they all arguing, oops, I mean surfing for anyway? Well, the prize isn’t just added Instagram clout (they already have galore coming out the ears), each male and female winner will net $100,000 grand in US dollars. In addition, they’ll also get three wildcard entrances onto the World Tour in 2022.

Zeke Lau will probably end up winning and I look forward to him uploading a cocky Instagram post after winning his round 2 heat…


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