Stab Magazine | Should WSL Studios Produce A Reality TV Show At Kelly Slater's Surf Ranch?

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Should WSL Studios Produce A Reality TV Show At Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch?

Rumors swirl of a hot romp in the desert!

news // Sep 7, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

As we’ve learned from their recent Big Wave “Tour” audible, the creation of WSL Studios, and the general hiring of ex-Oprah Winfrey Network President, Elon Musk, the WSL is in the midst of a content-centric transition, as surf competitions struggle to pay the bills. 

Over the past couple months, we’ve seen the WSL roll out a handful of new video series, including Surf Breaks, Brilliant Corners, My First Time (a collab with Rolling Stone), Strike Missionsanother unnamed docu-series with Box to Box Films, and they have no intention of stopping there. 

During their annual meetings with major surf brands at the US Open in Huntington, the WSL reportedly revealed a plan for a surf-centered reality TV show based out of the Surf Ranch in Lemoore.

We’ve learned that the show will include five male and five female surfers—likely of the low-to-mid grade pro variety—and be competition-based. This is interesting because the WSL already has a contest at the pool with the world’s best surfers, but hey, we’ll wait to watch it before we cast judgment. 

We reached out to the WSL to confirm this rumor, who responded with something to the effect of, Hmmm that doesn’t sound right, although we have a lot of projects in development, including some contest-based shows. 

But all we heard was: contest-based-reality-shows?

So for the sake of our selective hearing, and fun, why don’t we take a look at surfing’s prior and current attempts at reality TV?

boarding house north shore

Boarding House

First on our list is Boarding House, an early-2000s series based on Oahu’s North Shore, starring Sunny Garcia, Damien Hobgood, Myles Padaca, Danny Fuller, Holly Beck, Veronica Kay, Chelsea Georgeson, and others. The show’s tagline was something like, “partying all night, and surfing all day,” which epitomized the North Shore at the time (it’s now slightly tamer). 

This was the most highly produced series of the surf reality bunch and had the biggest names, as far as surfers go. There was plenty of action in and out of the water (Damo, you dirty dog!), and the show received an 8.8/10 on IMDb, which is nothing to sneeze at. 

From the outside, Boarding House looked like a relative success, but its failure to secure a second season sullies that point.

Maui Fever Cast maui fever 101074 600 365 

Maui Fever/Living Lahaina

According to Wikipedia, Maui’s dual surfing reality shows, Maui Fever and Living Lahaina, were filmed concurrently in 2006 on the Valley Isle. 

Maui Fever, which featured Stab’s beloved wavepool maven Cheyne Magnusson, was a Laguna Beach-style reality-drama, where the characters played themselves but in an overly-dramatic fashion.

It lasted one season.

Living Lahaina focused on a group of surf instructors at the Royal Hawaiian Surfing Academy. They filmed a total of eight episodes but five went unaired. 

Local reaction to the shows was overtly negative. The majority of criticism was lobbed at Maui Fever, whose primary cast featured all caucasian characters, none of which were even born on Maui. This led to claims of the show misrepresenting the local people and culture. Living Lahaina had so few episodes that Maui residents just let their grievances go. 

But seriously, imagine having two reality shows filmed at the same time in your one little town. The horror!

Surf House 

Surf House, starring contemporary sliders Mitch Crews, Michael Dunphy, Bree Kleintop, and Alisha Gonsalves, also took place on Oahu’s North Shore and chronicled the stark contrasts between male and female existence during the Vans Triple Crown. 

“We [the boys] go to bed early, wake up early,” said Virginia Beach Q-slave Mike Dunphy. “The girls come in late with high heels and wake up late.”

In the show, then-Hawaiian surf starlet Alisha Gonsalves attempted to woo Australia’s Mitch Crews but was ultimately unsuccessful. She then moved onto Balaram Stack and perhaps had more success (I think—I didn’t make it all the way to the end).  

The show is awful but also kind of cringe-funny if you’re into that sort of thing.

Malibu Surf

Lastly we have Malibu Surf, which for the sake of my own dignity, will receive no further text. 

So, if you’re the WSL, you’ve probably got mixed emotions about this whole reality TV thing.

On one hand, you probably couldn’t do much worse than all of these historical and contemporary attempts at creating engaging and organic surf-based reality TV. On the other hand, how are you gonna do it any better? Reality TV is inherently cheesy, and sprinkling surf on top somehow makes it way, way worse.

Nevertheless, we’ll tune into GOAT Pond (our presumed title of the show) the moment it airs for a complete analysis and review.

Oh, and if you’re a C-list pro surfer with aspirations of fame, please send a headshot and resume to [email protected]


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