After last week's announcement that from this point forward, there are no longer teams and each surfer will be competing as an individual, the remaining six contestants are now the official semifinalists.
The dream of joining the elite Championship Tour and being crowned the Ultimate Surfer is so close they can taste it. But there's no weak links anymore, everyone left is a competitive beast.
And unfortunately for Malia, she's all alone now. She tried to get Brianna eliminated last week, but she survived the Surf Off and is still hanging out with her bestie Tia, no doubt scheming up ways to get some payback. Malia knows that unless she wins the Wave Challenge this week, she's all but guaranteed to find herself in the Surf Off.
Before she's had too much time to worry about that though, host Jesse Palmer -- a former NFL quarterback -- breaks down this week's Beach Battle. Before he could make the transition from college football to the big leagues, Palmer had to go through something known as the NFL combine, which tests prospective players' abilities.
Beach Battle: Surf Combine
This week, the contestants will need to face a Surf Combine -- a course full of challenges, with each station testing various aspects of their wave riding abilities. There are three ‘events' in total. The forty yard splash sees them start on shore and race to duck dive under a series of barriers to a dock. The dock is where the next event takes place -- it's a wetsuit jump. They have to put on a wetsuit as quickly as possible and get ready to swim.
"We're from Hawaii, we don't wear wetsuits. This is not our strong suit," a flabbergasted Koa says. It's not like he's at a disadvantage though as all three remaining men -- Koa, Kai and Zeke -- are all from Hawaii.
Finally, it's the zig zag and go which sees them running a pattern back to the shore. The winner gets two extra waves in the Wave Challenge, while second place gets one extra ride.
Koa wasn't wrong, they are all very bad at putting on a wetsuit.
But it's Koa who crosses the line first, followed by Zeke. This means Kai is the only surfer who isn't going to be getting an extra wave. That is, until Jesse realizes Koa is even worse at putting on a wetsuit than he looks. He crossed the line with the bottom of his suit hanging off the end of his foot, meaning he's disqualified. This means Zeke is the winner.
"Even when I don't win, I'm still winning. Always winning." Zeke says.
Kai also bags an extra ride now, so according to Zeke, he's winning a little too, even when he flat out loses.
The women's heat is a "cat fight" -- Tia's words -- as her and Brianna gang up on Malia, squeezing her in during the duck dive paddle so she can't break through.
Tia wins, but Malia manages to come in second; they're both Californians who wear a wetsuit every day.
There's no time to let the tension simmer -- Kelly dials back in via "Kelly Vision" to break down this week's Wave Challenge, which is all about executing the single best maneuver.
Wave Challenge: Best Maneuver
This challenge is all about forcing the contestants to push themselves, and to prove they can hang on the Championship Tour. On Tour, every single athlete needs to be able to surf to an exceptionally high level, and the best way to prove that is going big -- huge turns or lofty, full rotation airs.
In fact, if you aren't capable of throwing down a truly exceptional single maneuver, it's very difficult to get anything beyond a mid-range score on Tour.
Considering this is a challenge where being cautious will get you nowhere, the guys with the extra waves are breathing a sigh of relief.
A new guest at the Ranch appears to show them exactly what they need to do -- Championship Tour star Filipe Toledo, who recently won the Jeep Surf Ranch Pro event at this very location.
Toledo is known for his tricks and big airs -- he's the one setting the benchmark when it comes to progressive maneuvers, and he'll be giving the guys some pointers before the Wave Challenge kicks off. They need them, too. Everyone takes some big wipeouts.
As Koa puts it though, this is like the final three miles of a marathon -- it's the second-to-last Wave Challenge. It's time to put it all on the line.
It's Tia who takes the win with a big, committed snap -- this means she's safe from this Episode's Surf Off and guaranteed a spot in the Final of the Ultimate Surfer.
So is Zeke after stomping a big full-rotation Alley Oop. As well as securing their Finals spot, Zeke and Tia also get to give an extra wave to one of the two competitors in the Surf Off.
Surf Off: Remaining Finalists Decided
Zeke gives his extra wave to Koa. It's not friendship though. He has confidence that he can beat Koa in the Final, whereas he feels Kai could be more of a threat. In Tia's case, it's barely a question -- the extra wave goes to Brianna to help her squash Malia.
Malia and Brianna is the battle we've been waiting for. They hate each other, and now, only one of them can stay at the Ranch.
"I've been waiting to beat Brianna this whole damn time, and I have one wave to win this." Malia says.
Malia talks a big game, but she falls on her wave. This means she's going to hope Brianna makes a big mistake if she wants to stay. She does, on her first wave. But she has two, care of Tia giving her an extra ride.
It all comes down to one final wave. Brianna finds the tube and slashes the wave with a big power carve.
Now Koa's up against Kai. Kai only has one wave but he tears it to pieces, setting the bar through the roof. Koa is going to have to hammer every single section to have a chance. He falls on his first attempt. Again it comes down to one last wave. He blasts a backhand reverse and finds the barrel not once, but twice. It's going to be close.
Brianna takes the win, booking her spot in the Finals, and so does Koa -- now, we're about to find out who the Ultimate Surfer really is.
"Zeke, it's time for our battle baby, let's go." Koa says.