BIPOC Zeke Lau and Hispanic Tia Blanco win ABC’s The Ultimate Surfer, “It’s a dream come true, says Tia. I’m pretty sure Zeke said the same thing. Does it matter? Really, I don’t think it does!”

A solid win for diversity amid a sea of honky.

I went surfing today, which is a very good way to waste time, in case you were wondering.

It also made me slightly stupid, so you can expect this week’s Ultimate Surfer recap to be even more deranged than usual.

Last week on The Ultimate Surfer, some stuff happened. I can’t remember any of it, if I’m honest. It was all so, so long ago.

But I do know this: Tonight is the grand finale of The Ultimate Surfer!

At long last, we are going to find out who wins.

One man and one women will survive tonight’s challenges and become The Ultimate Surfer, his and hers versions. I can’t even wait to see how it all unfolds.

Are you sad that it’s over? I think we’re supposed to be happy it happened, not sad that it’s over. That’s what Instagram says, and I always believe everything I see on Instagram.

Episode 8! The Finals!

I am fortified with chocolate and totally ready!

A best friends battle!

Tia versus Breanna. It’s such a women’s sports cliché! We’re all just friends here. We love each other. It is not my favorite cliché, but you know, I am not in a position to be choosy here. You have to watch the Ultimate Surfer you’re given, is what I’m saying.

On the men’s side, Zeke and Koa are the final two standing. The tats v. the cheekbones. Each is so haunting in his own way, when I really think about it. But thinking is super hard, so I’m not going to do that too much.

Old footage!

Five-year-old Koa is super cute. He wrote down in his journal that the final would be Zeke and Koa. His journal was very prophetic! Koa should try the lottery sometime.

Zeke cried during his first ever heat as a child. The waves were way too big and he didn’t want to paddle out. But he did, and it turned out totally well. He made it on Tour once, but he says now he was way too young, and it was too much, too soon. Almost, he is sympathetic here, which goes against the whole character arc of Zeke the unrelenting badass.

Anyway, it’s reality television, and I’m not sure we do character arcs here.


Kelly is welcoming them to the finals. You are the top four. Only one surfer stands between you and the World Tour. I’m glad Kelly is here to help me count, because I was having trouble with that part.

OMG! Kelly is here in real life! They have freed Kelly from his television screen and he is actually at the Surf Ranch. It’s all so real now.

Kelly doesn’t understand how Tia and Breanna can actually be friends. You are competing against one another. How you friends?

“Friends for one more day,” he says.

Extra practice time with Kelly. Everyone is super stoked to surf with Kelly. Also, Kelly looks good surfing the basin, of course.

He even managed to get his old bones up in the air and back down. Rad.

Apparently, the idea is that Kelly is going to coach them now.

Kelly likes Koa’s style, but he says Koa needs more variety. But he has style! Kelly says style is important, in fact, even though the judges don’t really care about that kind of thing. Turns bro, the judges like turns.

Breanna gets stuck on her back foot too much, says Kelly. She should hit it, instead of carving in the steep sections. I am learning so much here about how to surf better. Hit it (takes notes).

Kelly makes Tia super nervous and she falls on both waves. She tries not to let this get in her head.

After watching some surfing, Kelly is leaving now.

Bye Kelly!

Now, they’re all in the SUV with Jesse driving. Blindfolds! So scary!

Where could they possibly be going? I mean, there aren’t a lot of options there in Lemoore. Trust me, I checked thoroughly. Also they are wearing their super hot Ultimate Surfer rashies, so I hope they do not have to go anywhere public, because that would be embarrassing, I feel.

Commercial time, and there is a very large cheeseburger on my screen. It does not look super appealing. Needs more kale.

Am I getting kidnapped? Koa is anxious and so stressed out.

Breanna is screaming.

They’re trying to figure out where they’re going.

Is this a beach battle?

Everyone gets out of the car, still wearing blindfolds. They’re all holding hands and trying to figure out who they are and where they are. It’s very confusing!

A final challenge! Still blindfolded.

Jesse: Are you ready?


Surprise! Spa day!

Everyone is so happy now.

They sit in ice baths. Now the girls are teaching the boys how to put a masque on their faces. Also, cucumbers for the eyes!

Zeke thinks they’re zucchini. He is wrong, but we’ll let it slide. He does not seem like a guy who has spent a lot of time at the spa.

Final campfire!

What do you remember most? Breanna says surfing at night is the highlight of her whole career! Tia has won every surf-off she’s done.

In the end, if we don’t remember it, did it even happen? Koa brings the deep thoughts.

We have to bring it! May the best man and woman win.

Koa is good at the pep talk. If surfing doesn’t work out for him, maybe he can coach his local t-ball team. I think he could be a very good coach. Bring it!

Only 30 minutes left! And then we’re going to cry because it’s over. Totally.

There are random work-outs going on, now. Yoga and stretching and whatnot. Very important surfing work-out stuff.

Jesse is here with something very important to share! I wonder who styles his not-quite-beard. It’s very perfect.

Everyone gets three waves. Only the highest wave counts. Super simple! Even my small girl brain can follow this contest. I don’t even have to do math or keep track of combo situations. I feel so confident right now.

The final surf-off is during the day.

Does Tia get points for her hair flip? Because she totally should.

The eliminated surfers are back! And they get to watch. How wonderful for them.

The scoring is straight-up, like a normal contest.

Friends battle, first! Breanna and Tia are in the water and it’s so on now!

Do I need to tell you about the surfing? I feel like maybe I don’t. There is so much surfing going on.

First wave! Breanna falls on the close-out move. She gets a 6.17.

Tia says the CT wildcards would be a dream come true. She’s tried to qualify, but never quite made it. Yet.

Tia’s turns look nice, and she has lovely flow. She falls behind the wave and doesn’t make the barrel. I think they give her a seven.

There’s some stuff about Koa hitting the reef in Indo. Much blood. I am squeamish about the blood part.

Heavy power vibes from Zeke. He finishes with a reverse for an eight.

Lipline! The first lipline mention of the finale!

Koa has a skatey style, sliding on the, uh, lipline. Help! Help me, Turpel is finally getting in my brain. I am going to need an intervention over here.

A commercial interrupts the barrel which he maybe made or maybe didn’t! So much suspense over here!

Plumbing supplies! There are so many kitchen faucets on my screen right now. Stoked!

I still don’t understand how they decide who is going frontside and who is going backside. But whatevs! It’s too late to understand things now.

Koa falls in the barrel! He gets a four. A four is not going to beat Zeke’s eight. I am good enough at math to know that much!

Lipline! Breanna is belting it off the lipline!

It is so close now! Breanna gets a 7.83. It’s super close between the friends!

Oh hey, Tia gets a 9.5. She got a sick barrel and everything! Yay! Tia is very happy.

Back to the boys.

Oh no! Zeke falls! I did not know he knew how to fall. Zeke is angry. He got a 4.5, which is not really the score Zeke wants.

Koa is behind, but he has his magic surfboard and he believes!

Stylish ride from Koa, and he finishes with frontside reverse. Gets the completion, says Turpel.

I’m not even fighting it anymore. Completion. Surfing is just football in the water. It’s fine. It’s Turpel’s world and we just live in it now. In fact, from now on, after every wave, I’m going to be like, yah, man, I got the completion. And you know what? It’s going to feel so good.

I did not know that Wheel of Fortune was still on television. I thought for sure that shit would have been Darwined by now.

Lead change! 8.97 for Koa. It’s down to the last wave between Zeke and Koa.

Last wave! Breanna!

Risky decision! Turpel likes it. She got barreled and everything! That was really awesome, says Turpel.

Last wave! Tia!

It’s almost over now.

Hugs between the friends!

Tia feels like she did her best surfing. It’s been so awesome! I’ve had the time of my life!

Last wave for Zeke!

Very cute layback for Zeke ahead of the barrel. And super deep! So deep, I could barely see him. Proper!

Big, no-grab air to finish. Maybe landed it or maybe he didn’t!

Because, commercial times.

There is a medieval battle breaking out. I do not know what I’m supposed to buy here, but it’s exciting.

I am wide awake now and ready to see the rest of Zeke’s barrel. Honestly, if the WSL adopts this commercial pattern during actual heats I might quit watching pro surfing forever. The most buzz kill ever. Turpel can live inside my brain, but the commercial thing, I can not do.

That air from Zeke was legit good, in fact! Clean, no grab, super high. And a smooth as fuck landing. It’s probs a ten, really. I’ve got no argument.

Very deep barrels from Koa! But the landing on that last air was not that clean. Koa is throwing shakas and showing all the stoke! He could not be more happy.

We’re the real winners, says Turpel. We all win! I feel like a winner, for sure. I mean, I watched all eight episodes and made it to the finale. I deserve to feel like a winner!

I love my magic surfboard. Koa is kissing his board. It’s cute.

ELO! All the cool people are here now.

Elo is wearing a red, floral-print Hawaiian shirt. It is very white guy going to Waikiki to drink Mai Tais on the beach. Not that drinking Mai Tais on the beach is bad, necessarily, but I’d probably just wear a clean tee and call it done. Maybe I need to expand my horizons! Maybe I, too, need a red, floral-print Hawaiian shirt.

Okay, enough about the shirt, let’s find out the winners, which is what Elo is here to do.

Zeke and Tia win!

Hugs all around! Everyone is super happy right now, even the losers!

KELLY! He reappears, and he’s not trapped in his television set anymore. He’s free! Kelly is there to help celebrate the fabulous winners.

So much white teeth! So many smiles!

I am so totally feeling the love.

It’s a dream come true, says Tia. I’m pretty sure Zeke said the same thing.

Does it matter? Really, I don’t think it does.

The awkward check-holding ritual! This is my favorite moment in sports. There’s the podium, and everyone is all up there, trying to hold the big check. Like, omg! Don’t drop the big check! I imagine a gust of wind carrying everyone and their big checks far, far away.

The winners ride away on the jetskis. Down, down the basin they go. I’m not sure where they’re going. I’m not sure I need to know.

Like the end of a long dream, it all fades to black before they get there.

What happens next, no longer concerns me.

This time, I will not be back, bitches!

(Editor’s note: BeachGrit announced the men’s result in May, a rare moment of rumour and truth colliding.)

Medina and a piece of Johnny's fine architecture. | Photo: @cabiancadesign

Gabriel Medina’s shaper Johnny Cabianca on the “magic invisibility” of the perfect surfboard, Medina’s “emotional family situation” and “killing the cockroach” at Huntington Beach!

"I don’t want Gabriel to think, ‘Oh motherfucker-son-of-a-bitch board!’ I want him to surf and have a good performance.” 

It might be hard to appreciate given Gabriel Medina’s easy world title win at Lowers last week, hiking Filipe’s dress to his waist in a two-heat whitewash, but two months back he was frustrated as hell after missing a medal at the Tokyo Games. 

So he calls his shaper Johnny Cabianca, the Brazilian-born, Zarautz-based craftsman who’s been building his boards for a dozen years, ever since step-daddy Charlie, an old pal from Brazil, got him to make boards for the European leg of the 2009 WQS.

Medina, a boy with slicked-back oiled hair and eyes so dark they look like they’ve been stolen off a gingerbread man’s face, ruled that year’s King of the Grommets contest in Hossegor. Five tens in the event, two in the final. 

Johnny had thrown three rockers at Medina. He chose the flattest. 

And for a dozen years, the boards only changed in foil and outline as Medina grew, the essence of the board, the the full concave, the rocker, stayed the same. 

Johnny called it the DFK. Da Freak Kid. So named after commentator Martin Potter who kept referencing Medina as The Freak Kid on the webcast. 

After the Olympics, Medina told Johnny he wanted something a little different for Lowers. Something that would make him reference his back foot more.

“I want something special!” he told Johnny. “I want to change my balance, put more weight on my back leg.” 

Johnny burned through various combinations of rocker, foil and concave, fin placement and their angles, and settled, eventually, on a flatter rockered version of Medina’s small-wave board, The Medina. 

Sent three boards to Medina in California. 

Medina replied with clips, photos and wrote, simply, “This board is amazing. I’m prepared for The Game.” 

And, yeah, they named this new model  The Game.

As it turned out, the expected two-foot Lowers morphed into three-to-five (or eight-to-ten Surfline/Sam George) and Medina won the final on his usual DFK.

(Dimensions, 5’11” x 19” x 2 7/16”, 28.65 litres.)

It’s nine in the morn when Johnny’s phone lights up. 

He’s in the factory, as he always is, calls it his third kid, and we’re talking about The Game and how it’s built to connect the dots without the indignity of “killing the cucaracha”, killing the cockroach, how Johnny describes the Huntington Hop, currently on display at the US Open. 

“One day, in the future, people gonna go back to twin fins for those conditions,” he says. 

I ask him about the elephant in the room, I suppose y’could call it, the split between Medina and his step-daddy/mum, a combo that had yielded him two world titles, and what effect it had on the champ. 

Johnny’s discreet enough not to talk specifics but he says, “We talk a lot  about this, man, it’s a very sad situation. I always say, if you have problems with family, do your own family better. And I love his mum, I love his stepfather Charlie, we grew up together. I love Gabriel also. But between them it’s not a nice situation.” 

Still, the scenario has made Medina’s killer instinct vibrate even more violently. 

“It makes him hungry. He wants to win, to show them that he’s doing the right thing. And, he has a wife, wants to prove, ‘I am a man!’.” 

Johnny says the arrival of Andy King, the Australian pro who lost his hearing in a street fight in 2004 and who shifted to surf coaching after his tour comeback was stymied by his deafness, stilled the emotional situation. 

“He needs someone to help him during the contests. And Mick Fanning introduced him to Andy. And, Andy says to him, ‘What can I do to help you? You do everything perfect?’ Gabriel says, ‘Just stay with me! Comment on my waves!’”. 

Johnny tells a funny story about Medina arriving in Australia with one board, a round-nose fish from Matt Biolos, a gift from Griffin Colapinto. The sort of board everyone gets addicted to, fast, easy to ride, but ain’t the best for your stance, technique. Makes a man lazy. 

“Gabriel loved that board!” says Johnny. “But Andy says, ‘Don’t put that shit in the water! This is a toy for kids! Man, you are surfing perfect with your boards, don’t do this.’” 

At Lowers, neither world champ referenced their shaper, Carissa, no mention of Biolos, Medina no mention of Cabianca. 

Johnny laughs, says the last time he heard a surfer thank his shaper was Kelly Slater when he won title number ten and said grazi to the Channel Islands crew. 

“No other surfer talk about the shaper!” he says, although notes that Medina is very polite and, via text, email,  whatever, is full of praise. 

Johnny says the secret to making a good board for a pro surfer is in its invisibility underfoot. 

“The thing for Gabriel, and not only for Gabriel, for all the athletes, they don’t want to have any problem with the board. They don’t want to think about what they are using. They just want to take the board in that moment and do the job, do the service. The board needs to answer their commands. I don’t want Gabriel to think, ‘Oh motherfucker-son-of-a-bitch board!’ I want him to surf and have a good performance.” 

You want The Game? Or the DFK? Or the Medina? 

Give ‘em a hit here, Johnny’s wife Kelli will help steer you into the board of your life. 

Longtom calls the DFK the “easiest pro level board I’ve wrangled.” 

I’m all over the Medina. 

A magic invisibility. 

As I wrote in an earlier piece, Johnny could lift my glistening sex works in his palm and I’d be thrilled, his skin so close to mine I can smell his bargain cologne and steamy armpits.


Australian surfer whose “pride and joy” van, replete with wedding rings, hopes, dreams stolen after stashing key in Police-endorsed Surf Lock device; Insurance companies mock: “When you make a claim you’re just treated like dirt!”

Don’t let shady people steal your sunshine.

To be honest, I don’t know who in this western world still has a positive or even neutral impression of insurance companies but Gold Coast local, Andrew Grantham is decidedly not one of them.

The Coolangatta draftsman went surfing with his wife, recently, one fine pre-lockdown morning and when he returned, his 2018 Toyota Hiace was gone even though he stashed his keys in a Surf Lock device. One promoted by the police in fact.

His insurance company blamed his negligence on the affair and refused to cover the loss.

“When you make a claim you’re just treated like dirt. I felt like I was treated like the criminal. Like it was my fault the car got stolen. And for that I hate the insurance company more than the actual scumbags who stole my car,” he told the Gold Coast Bulletin.

Vague wording in his policy states that car theft is deserved when the keys are left “within the vicinity of the vehicle.”

His van was, he claimed, “his pride and joy” with he and his wife’s wedding rings inside and hopes and dreams of a vanlife future shining bright on the horizon. Traveling about the Lucky Country etc.

Grantham has fought, and fought hard, sending his insurance company police missives praising the Surf Lock li’l dangler with inspiring phrases such as “Don’t let shady people steal your sunshine. Consider using a surf lock attached to your car.”

His insurance company responded that they would not be buying Grantham a new vanlife because their client breached his conditions of cover.

“We make sure our claims process aligns with regulatory guidelines. This is in addition to our decision criteria that we use to ensure consistency and alignment with what is fair and reasonable.”

But back to insurance companies.

Are you a remaining fan?

Happy for the service provided?

Or are you a sunshine stealing shady person?

Also, where do you hide your keys when you surf?

Car shocks?

Under towel on beach?

In ignition?

A surf art if there ever was one.

Hawaii’s Carissa Moore caps most successful season in surfing’s long history with induction into Huntington Beach “Walk of Fame!”

She's number 1!

The Ultimate Surfer will air its final episode tonight on ABC television and Zeke Lau will win and one of the remaining female contestants will also win but we all know, and they all know too, that “Ultimate” means “Lightly Above Average” in their case.

No, The Ultimate Surfer is Carissa Moore and not even 11x World Champ Kelly Slater has had a more successful season than her.

First, the Honolulu-born Moore won the first-ever Olympic gold medal in surfing.

Then, she won the first-ever World Surf League Finals Day, snagging her own fifth World Title along the way.

Now, she is becoming enshrined on Huntington Beach’s very august surfing “Walk of Fame.”

John Etheridge, Surfing Walk of Fame Chairman of the Board, said, “After 18 months of world-wide closures and uncertainty, this year’s class of Surfing Walk of Fame inductees is incredible. Our goal to celebrate surfing, surfers, surf culture and its history has never been more completely represented than it is in this class. In a year where we’ve lost so many inductees like Greg Noll, Ben Aipa and Rick ‘Rockin Fig’ Fignetti, we’re so proud to honor this year’s group of honorees.”

Moore is entering the Walk as “Woman of the Year” alongside Damien Hardman, enshrined as “surf champion,” Mike Tabeling, a “Surf Pioneer” Cecil Lear and Hoppy Starts, “Surf Culture” and others.

A major honor, in any case, and there is virtually nothing that great shade painter Kelly Slater could say or write to diminish at all.

No way he could pour her glass half empty.

Could he?

Moore as the story develops.

See the heart-warming moment a surfer slows down to let an out-of-shape cop catch him, and slug him $300, for flouting New Zealand’s tough no-surfing rules!

Iron fist comes down on Kiwi surfers!

Less than one month ago, New Zealand, a little island paradise to the east of Australia and uninhabited by humans for most of its history, used the COVID pandemic to shut down out-of-towners and kooks as part of its Level 4 lockdown restrictions. 

The much-touted VAL revolution, championed by the WSL and counting Jonah Hill as its patron saint, was suddenly benched by Jacinda Arden’s leftist regime. It was a surprising move for a government whose progressive bona fides are beyond any sorta reproach, Marxist at heart if not practice. 

Currently the little island nation is under tough “Alert 4 level” restrictions as it battles what is, viewed through a worldwide perspective, a minor hit of the bug. 

All surfing practised by inexperienced surfers, banned, and shredders required to stay at their local wave. As well, outer-reef sessions are forbidden as restrictions remind surfers to “stay within 200 metres of the shore.” 

But what is life if you can’t laugh at it, am I right? 

Yesterday, BeachGrit reader Andrew Mitchell sent a heart-warming short, filmed by his pal Mark Sharrock, of a surfer at Maori Bay near Auckland, allowing an out-of-shape cop to catch him for flouting the emergency law. 

The man was fined three-hundred dollars, and he ain’t alone, plenty of people have been getting stung for shredding, although, as Michell pointed out, “it’s still cheaper than a wave pool.”