Surfest 2017: Ryan Callinan grabs late heat win in WSL QS event | photos

Ryan Callinan suffered some agonising, last-minute losses in his rookie year on the Championship Tour in 2016, but on Thursday the Merewether surfer was the one breaking hearts.

Callinan withstood the pressure of competing at his home event to grab a 7.60-point ride in the last minute of his round-three heat and progress to the fourth round of the 6000-point World Surf League Qualifying Series event.

He packed five trademark backhand snaps into a small right-hander at the Pogo’s break, jumping from last to first in the heat.

“I was really pushing for the most out of it, but it felt good,” Callinan said after returning to the judges’ tower.

“The waves were a bit different to what I expected them to be and I didn’t really adapt very quickly.

“That was a bit of a blunder at the start, but I came home in the end and held my composure and got that one ride towards the end. I didn’t think it was going to be enough still, but it was a good wave.”

The 24-year-old stood nervously on the beach with a group of supporters as his rivals’ late scores dropped before being confirmed as the heat winner on 11.87.

Ryan Callinan, right, with supporters at Pogo's on Thursday waiting to hear the final scores in his round-three heat. Picture: Michael Parris

Ryan Callinan, right, with supporters at Pogo's on Thursday waiting to hear the final scores in his round-three heat. Picture: Michael Parris

Caloundra young gun Reef Heazlewood scraped into second on 11.13, just ahead of Portugal’s 2014 junior world champion Vasco Ribeiro (11.10) and France’s Maxime Huscenot (10.30).

Callinan had the second-highest score (18.20) in round two, 4.43 points ahead of his closest heat rival, but it was a different story on Thursday.

“I’ve had some nervous waits before, but that was pretty bad,” Callinan said. “I actually thought they read out a score that knocked me down, so I was pretty disappointed. I got halfway down and they yelled out I won.”

Callinan’s backhand has served him well, and it did so again at the decisive moment of Thursday’s heat. 

“If you get a few turns on your backhand, it’s easier to get a score. Forehand I feel like you have to go a bit bigger.

“I feel like the backhand’s just been coming to me a bit more. I get a lot more practice on my backhand growing up at Merewether, so I’m pretty comfortable.”

Callinan is the only Novocastrian left in the competition and admits to feeling the pressure of becoming the first home-town Surfest men’s winner.

“I think I do, for sure. It’s in the subconscious. I try to block it out, but it’s still there a little bit.

“Just the people cheering and everyone coming up and saying hello and good luck and all that kind of stuff. It seems like a lot more energy. It’s all positive.

“I try not to think about it, because if you think about everyone who’s here supporting you, it can get quite nerve-racking.

“I’m just trying to take it like it’s any other QS event. Every event I go in to win, and this one especially.”

Organisers moved the contest slightly north to Pogo’s, between Merewether and Dixon Park, in search of better waves.

“I probably surf there more than I do at Merewether. Probably about even for me,” Callinan said.

“But the sand looks really bad at Merewether now. Maybe if we got a big south swell, it’d be really fun.

“I think they’re just moving it to the best waves, which is better for everyone.”

Former CT star Owen Wright, making his comeback from a brain injury, was eliminated after finishing third in his heat. Gold Coast CT surfer Jack Freestone was knocked out after finishing fourth in his heat. 

Six-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore was the standout women’s performer with rides of 9.00 and 10.00 in her heat.

“They were pretty unexpected scores,” she said. “It’s a really nice way to start the year, a nine and a 10.”

Merewether’s 2009 champion, Philippa Anderson (9.76), was knocked out by Australian CT surfer Keely Andrew (14.60) and Hawaii’s Brisa Hennessy (12.70).

Former CT surfers Alessa Quizon (Hawaii), Chelsea Tuach (Barbados) and Bianca Buitendag (South Africa) also were eliminated, but world No.4 Tatiana Weston-Webb (Hawaii), world No.7 Malia Manuel (Hawaii) and tour veterans Silvana Lima (Brazil), Sage Erickson (US) and Paige Hareb (New Zealand) survived. 

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Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday: Bianca Buitendag from South Africa. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Bianca Buitendag from South Africa. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday: Bianca Buitendag from South Africa. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Bianca Buitendag from South Africa. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday: Bianca Buitendag from South Africa. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Bianca Buitendag from South Africa. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday: Bianca Buitendag from South Africa. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Bianca Buitendag from South Africa. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday: Bianca Buitendag from South Africa. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Bianca Buitendag from South Africa. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday: Bianca Buitendag from South Africa. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Bianca Buitendag from South Africa. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday:  Nage Melamed from Hawaii. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Nage Melamed from Hawaii. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday:  Nage Melamed from Hawaii, who won the heat. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Nage Melamed from Hawaii, who won the heat. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday:  Alize Arnaud from France. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Alize Arnaud from France. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday:  Alize Arnaud from France. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Alize Arnaud from France. Picture Peter Stoop

Relaxing on the beach during the Surfest Women's round  24, heat 6 on Thursday.  Picture Peter Stoop

Relaxing on the beach during the Surfest Women's round 24, heat 6 on Thursday. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 4 on Thursday:  Laura Poncini from Australia. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 4 on Thursday: Laura Poncini from Australia. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 4 on Thursday: Paige Hareb from NZ. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 4 on Thursday: Paige Hareb from NZ. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 4 on Thursday: Paige Hareb from NZ. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 4 on Thursday: Paige Hareb from NZ. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 4 on Thursday:  Laura Poncini from Australia. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 4 on Thursday: Laura Poncini from Australia. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 4 on Thursday:  Laura Poncini from Australia. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 4 on Thursday: Laura Poncini from Australia. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 4 on Thursday:  Pauline Ado from France, who won the heat. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 4 on Thursday: Pauline Ado from France, who won the heat. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 4 on Thursday:  Pauline Ado from France greets fans after she leaves the water. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 4 on Thursday: Pauline Ado from France greets fans after she leaves the water. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 4 on Thursday:   Alana Blanchard after competing in her heat and failing to go through. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 4 on Thursday: Alana Blanchard after competing in her heat and failing to go through. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 4 on Thursday:  Alana Blanchard  from Hawaii. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 4 on Thursday: Alana Blanchard from Hawaii. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 4 on Thursday:  Alana Blanchard  from Hawaii. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 4 on Thursday: Alana Blanchard from Hawaii. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 4 on Thursday:  Alana Blanchard  from Hawaii, after missing  out on a place. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 4 on Thursday: Alana Blanchard from Hawaii, after missing out on a place. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday: Australian Felicity Palmateer jumps onto the beach before her heat. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Australian Felicity Palmateer jumps onto the beach before her heat. Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday: Alessa Quizon from Hawaii hams it up for a friend with a camera before the heat . Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Alessa Quizon from Hawaii hams it up for a friend with a camera before the heat . Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round  24, heat 6 on Thursday: Alessa Quizon from Hawaii hams it up for a friend with a camera before the heat . Picture Peter Stoop

Surfest Women's action from round 24, heat 6 on Thursday: Alessa Quizon from Hawaii hams it up for a friend with a camera before the heat . Picture Peter Stoop

Relaxing on the beach during the Surfest Women's round  24, heat 6 on Thursday.  Picture Peter Stoop

Relaxing on the beach during the Surfest Women's round 24, heat 6 on Thursday. Picture Peter Stoop

Adriano De Souza competing in his heat on Wednesday. Picture: Simone de Peak

Adriano De Souza competing in his heat on Wednesday. Picture: Simone de Peak

Adriano De Souza competing in his heat on Wednesday. Picture: Simone de Peak

Adriano De Souza competing in his heat on Wednesday. Picture: Simone de Peak

Adriano De Souza competing in his heat on Wednesday. Picture: Simone de Peak

Adriano De Souza competing in his heat on Wednesday. Picture: Simone de Peak

Travis Lynch competing in his heat on Wednesday. Picture: Simone de Peak

Travis Lynch competing in his heat on Wednesday. Picture: Simone de Peak

Travis Lynch competing in his heat on Wednesday. Picture: Simone de Peak

Travis Lynch competing in his heat on Wednesday. Picture: Simone de Peak

Travis Lynch after competing in his heat on Wednesday. Picture: Simone de Peak

Travis Lynch after competing in his heat on Wednesday. Picture: Simone de Peak

Alana Blanchard competing on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard competing on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Brianne Cope shelters from the storm. 19th february 2014.  pic    Darren Pateman

Brianne Cope shelters from the storm. 19th february 2014. pic Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard competing on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard competing on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard competing on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard competing on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Stephanie Gilmore heads down for her heat. 19th february 2014.  pic    Darren Pateman

Stephanie Gilmore heads down for her heat. 19th february 2014. pic Darren Pateman

The rain hit hard during the women's heats on Wednesday.

The rain hit hard during the women's heats on Wednesday.

Alana Blanchard after competing on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard after competing on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard  on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard after competing on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Alana Blanchard after competing on Wednesday. Picture: Darren Pateman

Philippa Anderson in heat 5. 19th february 2014.  pic    Darren Pateman

Philippa Anderson in heat 5. 19th february 2014. pic Darren Pateman

Philippa Anderson after being knocked out in heat 5 19th february 2014.  pic    Darren Pateman

Philippa Anderson after being knocked out in heat 5 19th february 2014. pic Darren Pateman

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson speaking on Tuesday at Surfest.

Joel Parkinson speaking on Tuesday at Surfest.

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

Joel Parkinson at Surfest on Tuesday. Pic: Ryan Osland

A scene from Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

A scene from Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

A scene from Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

A scene from Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Monty Tait in action at Surfest,  Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Monty Tait in action at Surfest, Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

A scene from Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

A scene from Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

A scene from Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

A scene from Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Dylan Lightfoot, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Dylan Lightfoot, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Monty Tait, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Monty Tait, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Joshua Moniz of Hawaii, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Joshua Moniz of Hawaii, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Ryan Callinan, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Ryan Callinan, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Ryan Callinan,  Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Ryan Callinan, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 17. Picture: Marina Neil

Bronte Macaulay, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 16. Picture: Dean Osland

Bronte Macaulay, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 16. Picture: Dean Osland

Bronte Macaulay, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 16. Picture: Dean Osland

Bronte Macaulay, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 16. Picture: Dean Osland

Holly Wawn, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 16. Picture: Dean Osland

Holly Wawn, Surfest at Merewether Beach, February 16. Picture: Dean Osland

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