Ryan Callinan blasted away the frustrations of last year and set his sights on becoming the first Newcastle man to win Surfest with a dominant start on Tuesday.
Callinan’s 9 and 9.2, earned with powerful backside hacks and a massive frontside aerial, gave him the second-highest total in the round of 96. Brazilian Michael Rodrigues got an 8.17 late to take second with 13.77 and eliminate championship tour veteran Kai Otton (12.64). Merewether’s Jackson Baker (10.23) was last.
Callinan was a quarter-finalist at Surfest last year and is aiming to kick-start his campaign to qualify for the CT after debuting in 2016.
“It’s weird to get such big scores early,” Callinan said. “I ended up getting some scores at the end of last year but I feel like those scores didn’t reflect how well I was surfing, so it was good to put some big numbers up.”
As for taking the title, he said: “That’s the goal and it’s a good start. I guess I’ve got to just keep carrying it on and hopefully I can keep doing that every heat. That will take the pressure off.”
The 24-year-old was in the frame to re-qualify for the CT heading to Hawaii at the end of last year but dropped out of the top 10 after progressing from just one heat at the two 10,000-point events.
The goofy-footer appeared driven and out to prove a point on Tuesday.
“It feels a bit more like how I want to surf, showing off what I want to do and being comfortable in doing it and confident I can,” he said.
“I felt good and once I got the early high score, it was quite easy to relax a little bit as well.”
Surfest 2012 champion Willian Cardoso, 2015 runner-up Jack Freestone were other heat winners early on day two of the 6000-point QS event.
Local wildcard trials winner Jake Sylvester, a two-time pro junior winner at Surfest, was fourth in the first heat of the day, which also featured the exit of defending champion and top seed Matt Wilkinson.
Japan’s Yuji Mori, the No.225 on the QS last year, won the heat with a score of 11.23 ahead of Brazilian, the QS No.64, Samuel Pupo (9.33). Pupo edged out Wilkinson (8.8), who needed only a 4.4 to progress but could not find the score in the small waves. Sylvester had a total of 8.63.