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The Ultimate Surfer paddle battle

Zeke Lau in the strangest paddle battle he’s ever been a part of. Image: Screenshot/Instagram@ultimatesurferabc

The Inertia

Sometimes I wonder about the people who make decisions on television. Not the people on the show itself, but the people in charge of what happens on a show. I wondered that last night as I watched The Ultimate Surfer. Truth be told, though, while my colleague believes The Ultimate Surfer is brilliant, the first three episodes left me wanting for… something. A villain, perhaps. I wanted to hate-watch, but everyone on the show was just too likable. Even Anastasia Ashley, who seemed to be cast as the show’s Cruella de Vil before she was sent packing, wasn’t killing enough puppies. But the fourth episode, last night’s, was the first time I’ve actually been invested in what happens after the commercial break. The show is looking up, I think. Ratings-wise, it is not apparently doing so hot and rumors are swirling that The Ultimate Surfer season one will be the last, but we’ll have to wait and see on that one.

But boy-oh-boy, episodes three and four had some… questionable challenges. The first, in episode three, was only bad because it was clear that it was created by a person who had no knowledge of actual surfing, but a little bit of knowledge about surfing terminology. The surfers had to stand on a series of rolling barrels to test their balance, and one presumes, their barrel-riding capabilities. Very clever. Now, I’m sure that there is at least some transferable skills between standing on an actual barrel and riding on a surfboard inside a barrel, but there cannot be much. Then, however, came the challenge in episode four. And it was a doozy. An overtly sexual doozy, full of moaning and grunting and actual faces in actual butts.

Picture, if you will, a surfboard. Now picture tandem surfing. On the front of that surfboard lies a female. Behind her lies a male. In order for both of them to fit on said surfboard, the male must have his chest and head between the female’s legs. His face must be directly on top of the female’s bikini-clad butt. Now picture both of these surfers paddling that surfboard as hard as they can. Water is splashing. Faces and butts are smashing. Energy is being expended in such a way that both surfers are grunting and moaning, the grunts and moans from the male in the back occasionally muffled by the butt of the female surfer in front.

That’s a thing that actually happened. It was incredible to watch. I sat beside my partner, jaws agape, wine spilling from our glasses as we laughed in awe. You know, if you watched, that it was a paddle battle. The surfboards were attached in such a way that the harder one team paddled, the more the other team was pulled backwards. Like a tandem-surfing tug of war. It ended when one team hit the finish line.

It could have been far more simple. A paddle race, for example, with no faces in butts and less moaning and grunting. But my God, was I ever entertained. Which, I suppose, is the purpose of anything on television. By that metric, it succeeded.

There was some surfing, too — a party wave contest that seemed like a fun exercise, along with a few others — but the real meat on the bone of The Ultimate Surfer doesn’t appear to be the surfing itself. Instead, it’s the ridiculous challenges. And after a lackluster start, I’m coming around to the show. Give me that ridiculous entertainment. Make me cringe. Make me laugh at the absurdity of it all. I’m not watching to see who surfs the best anymore. I’m just here to see if they can top that paddle battle. Are you not entertained?

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