The competition series, which is produced by Pilgrim Media Group, is now underway at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Kings County, California.
Nicholas Caprio, Chief Content Officer at Pilgrim Media Group, speaking alongside ABC alternative chief Rob Mills on a HRTS virtual panel session about returning to production outlined how the show got back in the water.
Ultimate Surfer features top up-and-coming surfers training and battling it out at the surf ranch with men and women competing in individual and team challenges focused on specific surfing disciplines. Weekly eliminations will leave two men and two women as finalists who will vie for the male and female titles of the Ultimate Surfer and the opportunity to compete on the WSL World Tour.
Caprio admitted that the show was “already logistically a bear of a show” even before COVID-19.
It created what they called a “tent city”, which was in fact a series of mobile homes and trailers that housed crew and installed a rigorous testing system.
“Every person who came up was put in a hotel and tested. When they got negative, they could go inside the ranch and tested them again a week later. That included anyone who came in whether it was a judge or talent. It was really tough because it was really hot and really dusty. Just because they had two clean tests, we still had to take all of the precautions with masks and stations,” he said.
Caprio said that ABC had been a very supportive and that the network was happy for them to return to filming and was equally happy to wait until they were ready but he did reveal that the one thing the network didn’t want to happen was for them to start shooting and then shut down.
The eight-part show is being headlined by 11-time World Surf League champion Kelly Slater. Slater will serve as on-air talent and special correspondent for the show, executive produced by Pilgrim CEO and President Piligian, WSL Studios CEO Erik Logan, and UFC President Dana White.