Mark Richards is always wary of putting too much pressure on Ryan Callinan, especially when it comes to winning Surfest.
The four-time world champion knows better than most the stress home expectations can bring.
Richards, though, like many in Newcastle, has long believed Callinan can be a world title contender.
And after Callinan's amazing 2018, Richards is quietly confident "2019 is going to be a really good year for him".
Callinan starts his competitive year at the Burton Automotive Pro this week at Merewether on a high.
The 26-year-old will use the 6000-point qualifying series (QS) event as his only warm-up for his full-time return to the championship tour (CT). He won that chance last year with QS victories in Japan and Portugal, before shocking many of the world's best as a wildcard on the CT in France, where he made the final, and in Portugal and Hawaii.
Callinan made the 2016 CT but then lost his parents, Garry and Janice, in the space of just 15 months. The double tragedy struck at the core of the tight-knit Merewether Surfboard Club.
Richards was one of many friends "frothing" to see Callinan fight back last year. He believed Callinan would carry that momentum into 2019.
"I was so excited for him, I felt like I was back in the water again," he said. "I know the word gets overused but I was just so happy and so stoked for him.
"Obviously it was a really hard year for him, he had a lot going on in his life with his family ... it's just so tragic what he's had to deal with.
"So I was so happy he made the final in France and I had my fingers crossed he would win, and he went close. Then he got the wildcard into Portugal and he was a wrecking ball in that, taking out the best surfers, left, right and centre.
"I think everyone in the area and everyone in the board club has always believed he's got the ability to be a world title contender, but sometimes things just don't go right for you.
"But at the end of last year, everything just seemed to click for him, so without putting any pressure or expectations on him, I think everyone is quietly confident that 2019 is going to be a really good year for him on tour."
Richards said the first year on the CT can be daunting for young surfers, who often face their heroes in early rounds, but he believed Callinan would approach his second campaign with confidence and a whole new mindset.
"There's no question he has the ability to beat anyone on tour and he proved that at France, Portugal and Pipeline as well," he said.
"In France and Portugal he knocked out a lot of top-rated surfers, and at Pipeline, specialists who surf that wave every day of their life. Ryan might have surfed that maybe 10 times in his life and he was eliminating guys who have devoted their whole life to Pipeline."
Richards, though, knows Surfest is a different story.
He claimed the last of his world titles in 1982, three years before Surfest began, and he tried desperately to hold aloft the trophy that now carries his name and image.
"It's really hard to win your home event because there's all these expectations from your friends and family," he said. "I found it easier to compete away.
"If I have regrets in my career, one of them was that I wasn't able to win this event. It would have been incredible to celebrate at home with friends and family.
"I didn't even go close. Luke [Egan] came close, he got a second one year, but I always stressed out. Just the enormity of it. I just wanted to win it so bad."
Surfest completed only 16 heats of the men's round one on Monday in small surf at Dixon Park Beach. Callinan starts in heat 17 of round two.
Callinan has spoken about his new self-belief and confidence from 2018, and Richards believed that would make a difference.
"In terms of confidence, you couldn't go into this year with a better boost," he said.
"With re-qualifying, winning in Japan, second to Julian [Wilson] and doing incredibly well and backing up in the Portugal event. He's got to go in confident.
"Competitor-wise, what is going on inside of your head is 90 percent of the battle so he should be going into this year excited, stoked and full of confidence.
"For young surfers, the first year they qualify on tour, the big league, it's incredibly daunting because you've battled your way through the QS, which is a really hard slog. You qualify, you wipe the sweat off your brow and say I've qualified, but unfortunately that's where it starts.
"All of a sudden you're surfing against the best surfers in the world, and not when you get in the final, you're against them in the first round, so all of a sudden you're in the water possibly with guys who were your hero and who you looked up to.
"That first year is incredibly hard. A lot of young surfers struggle that first year, but he's got that out of the way.
"He got knocked off tour that first year and did the hard slog to re-qualify, so I think he now knows what to expect. I think he's going in this year with a completely different mindset."