The Ultimate Surfer…Hawaii

The “core” is quick to point out that the World Surf League (WSL) and American Broadcast Company (ABC) collaboration known as The Ultimate Surfer is an abomination. But that’s only when no one else is looking. When 10 PM ET/PT (7 PM HST) rolls around, the popcorn is popped, soda is poured, and sofas are positioned around the tube to watch the gang get tubed at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch. This is especially true for those of us on the Hawaiian Islands. While we should find it more ridiculous than anyone given that surfing in a pool is like, surfing in a pool, we can’t help but tune in. Why? Because the 50th state is representing in the 31st state at Lemoore (CA) where the reality show is held.

Now that we’ve just concluded episode six (aired Sept 7/2021) the field is narrowed down to six surfers. Three kane, and three wahine. All three remaining men are from Hawaii, and one of the contenders on the ladies’ side is as well. Since we honored Hawaiian representation at the recent Summer Olympics, we’re doing the same with a look at the surviving field of a less consequential but guilty pleasure of an event – The Ultimate Surfer.

Featured image: courtesy of ABC

Hawaiian Representation in the First Season of The Ultimate Surfer and Who We Think Will Win

Zeke Lau

The Ultimate Surf Hawaii - The Ultimate Surfer Review
image: @zekelau

The 26 year Hawaiian warrior from Honolulu is a regular face on the North Shore and a threat to win any contest at Sunset Beach – a wave tailor made for his powerful frame. Zeke also has a popular YouTube channel that is worth checking out. He is hungrier than any competitor on The Ultimate Surfer as he demands to regain his rightful spot on the WSL’s World Championship Tour after he was robbed at the VANS World Cup in 2019. Judges failed to call a blatant interference by Jack Robinson as Lau was about to complete a barrel ride for a score that would have likely secured his spot on the 2020 Tour. Saltwater under the bridge? Nope. Zeke means business at the otherwise lighthearted affair in Lemoore. He’s the clear favorite to win, as long as host Jesse Palmer (via producers) doesn’t throw a wrench into the final two episodes.

Koa Smith

Koa Smith is also a familiar face on YouTube, and is one of a three brother combo that delivers one the best Hawaii vlogs to watch this year. The perpetually stoked 25 year old from Kilauea that now resides on the North Shore is also part owner of the Sunrise Shack at Sunset Beach, at Shark’s Cove, and at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. Koa has a lot going on and is therefore not as hungry at Zeke to win the reality show/contest, but we’re stoked to see him on the ABC mainstream screen nonetheless.

Kai Barger

With chubby cheeks (caked in sunscreen) and an odd haircut, Kai Barger from Haiku is the oldest of the Hawaiian cast, and has not been as visible on the surf circuit as his fellow statesman. He had a rough start in the series, and was given the boot in episode 3. However, Barger was given a second chance to compete against the other previously excavated surfers and won, regaining his position on the program. He is still a major underdog, but the islands are rooting for him to make a comeback on the show, and in his career. He’s just needs do something about that semi-mullet.

Brianna Cope

The Ultimate Surf Hawaii - The Ultimate Surfer Review
image: @briannacope

Women’s World Qualifying Series (WQS) warrior Brianna Cope of Koloa has been close to making it on the WSL’s World Championship Tour but fell oh-so short in 2014 and 2015. She’s talented, charismatic, and determined. While her competitors Tia Blanco and Malia Ward may get more screen time for their drama, Cope is all business and deserves the win.


We’re not being bias with this prediction. All signs point to a Zeke Lau win for the men, and a Brianna Cope claim to victory for the women.



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