Today, it’s not so rare to see young adults with anxiety on our screens. What earlier would be considered taboo or something to be ashamed of is now spoken about more openly and represented positively on TV. Surviving Summer is just an Australian remix of American teen dramas, but somehow, even in its 30-minute episodes, it manages to cover a lot of ground. Given that each episode is mostly about beautiful visions of surfing and the ocean, you’d think that’s all the show is about. But it brings to the table a lot of problems teens face today. The show does a really good job of showing Summer’s maturity while still remaining authentic. It’s not like she goes through a transformation, has a makeover, and becomes a whole new person. She just learns to be a better person. The show encourages a sense of finding meaning in life and choosing to do something for oneself. In the whole of the first season, Summer’s focus is on herself alone. She wants to go back at first, but then she chooses to try to surf and challenge herself (even if it’s in the interest of challenging her mother). On the other hand, Ari’s journey parallels Summer’s in many ways. It’s almost like an upgraded version, though.
Ari Gibson has been surfing all his life. He’s established himself as a great surfer, a good friend, and just an overall “heartthrob.” After the injury, Ari returned to the ocean in the hope that the waves would wash away his fears and troubles. Instead, it made him more anxious, and he felt weighed down by all the pressure he put on himself. It’s not like Ari’s parents aren’t supportive, or he has a coach who wants him to win no matter what. In fact, Ari wants to do this all by himself.
At first, Ari’s friends have no idea what’s going on with him because he doesn’t open up about it. It’s Summer who ends up getting them all to talk to each other about their problems. At the end of season 1, Ari finally said out loud what he really needed to do. He told his parents that there was something wrong and he didn’t know what to do, and then he told Summer that he needed her help to get better. So, when Summer left because she had her own problems to solve, Ari was able to completely devote his efforts to getting better himself. A year later, Ari has reached a point he thinks he’s satisfied with. He thinks he can handle anything as long as he follows his methods to calm down and continues to speak to his psychologist.
There’s one point of dialogue between Ari and his father that really stands out in the series. When Ari needs his father to be supportive of him the most, it looks like they have some trouble communicating. At this point, Ari’s feeling very disappointed with his dad, who misbehaved when the sponsor was around. Of course, Ari’s dad just wants what’s best for him, but he doesn’t show it in a very supportive manner, leaving Ari overthinking again. So, when Ari’s dad asks to go surfing with him and to wake him up when he’s ready, Ari chooses to go alone to clear his mind. Ari’s dad just wants him to have fun while surfing and not forget that, but Ari wants to go pro because he loves the sport. And for that, he needs sponsors and to act a certain way, too. One that his dad possibly doesn’t approve of. Ari’s dad thinks the sponsors are just there to exploit the young kids by offering them money. This might well be true, but Ari needs it to build his career.
On the other hand, Ari doesn’t really know what’s authentic about him. When he gets the sponsorship, he asks Bax to help him with his socials. Bax’s only advice is for him to be true to himself. This is something Ari doesn’t quite get because he feels very superficial himself. He gets referred to as “vanilla,” and this hurts his feelings. Ari is naive and always gets engulfed in his thoughts. So, he tells his dad that he would rather speak to his psychologist, who is more supportive of his decisions than his dad. In the end, it probably occurred to Ari that his dad was right, but he learned from his experience rather than his dad’s words.
At the nationals, Ari’s composure changes when Elo and Wren start to put pressure on him. It’s clear later on that they know about his anxiety, and Ari isn’t ashamed of his anxiety because he does his exercises in front of everyone. Instead of showing him their support, they say it looks like he’s “freaking out,” trying to rattle him up more. On the other hand, Ari’s relationship with Summer has also been messed up because of Wren and everything that’s gone down in the past few days, leaving Ari really stressed out. Ultimately, he ends up being too late and not even getting a wave. After this, he has a panic attack and finally tells Wren that he doesn’t love her. Ari was so caught up in everything from the nationals to Wren’s behavior, not believing Summer and lying to Wren. He’s finally free of his worries after telling Wren the truth and then telling Summer to kill it out there.
Ari also speaks to his parents and realizes that his dad has always cared for him. His dad even pretends not to have watched the heats just so that he doesn’t feel crowded. Ari tells his parents that he wants to be with Summer, and because the phone’s on speaker, Margot agrees that they’re both great for each other. He uses the dance they did as children to bring the team together and realizes he’s like the glue that can bind them all together. Ari becomes the support system for the team because he’s a kindhearted person with golden retriever energy. Ari doesn’t consider his matters trivial, and so he helps himself in the end. Although Ari will continue to fight his anxiety, he has a proper support system, and he understands himself better.