Surfing is a sport that has a very particular fanbase. As a smaller level sport, it is not going to have the number of widespread fans as one of the major sports. However, there is a growing audience. That can be seen through many outlets, but the Olympics may be the best example of that.
Surfing made its Olympic debut in Tokyo this summer. For the first time, surfers from all over the world were able to have their hard work and talent recognized across a global event like the Olympics. It truly was the best opportunity for these athletes to be recognized and people definitely became aware and took notice of how special this sport truly is. It was deemed so successful that the sport got the nod to also have a spot in the Summer Olympics in 2024 that will take place in Paris, France. Surfing was one of the ten most viewed sporting events in the Olympics this year.
Interestingly enough, surfing has now made a move to the mainstream. ABC has premiered ‘The Ultimate Surfer’. The Ultimate Surfer is a competition series that was created by eleven-time surfing world champion Kelly Slater. Former NFL Quarterback Jesse Palmer hosts the show with sports anchor Erin Coscarelli and Joe Turpel as commentators. The series includes 7 up-and-coming male and female surfers to train and live together as they compete against one another at World Surf League’s state-of-the-art Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California. While it is a reality show and there is a dramatic aspect to the show, the surfers compete in both individual and team challenges that are focused on different aspects of the sport. There are weekly eliminations on both the men’s and women’s sides that will eventually leave two men and two women as finalists. The winner of each side will be declared the winner and will have the opportunity to compete on the WSL Championship Tour.
Episode 1 brought in 1.432 million viewers and episode 2 brought in 1.318 million viewers. Although there was a drop-off in viewership from the premier, the demographic change from episodes 1 to 2 increased by 17.65%. What the TV show will do for surfing, however, is introduce the sport and allow it to become more mainstream. In the Olympics, people saw the talent and hard work of these tremendous athletes. However, in ‘The Ultimate Surfer’ people are going to be able to get an inside look at the hardships that these Surfers go through, as well as the constant time and effort that these athletes have to put into work on their craft. It truly is an exciting time for surfing, as the sport is bringing in genuine interest, obviously enough interest for ABC to feel confident making it a premier television show on one of the biggest networks on cable.
Andy Dehnard, a Television Critic, said, “The Ultimate Surfer has more than I gave it credit for… Add that to some impressive surfing, and The Ultimate Surfer is a compelling reality TV competition with just the right amount of strategy and interpersonal drama that is balancing out perfectly right now.” I think that taking surfing and showing the lifestyle and making them out to be more than just athletes will truly create a special brand to this show. This will help people understand the ins and outs of surfing, but also letting viewers get connected to each of these surfers through their personal experiences and stories will add a new dimension to the sport.
Also, the large-scale exposure that these surfers will be getting will help them bring in interest from different brands that would end up creating mutually beneficial partnerships and help boost their careers to the next level.