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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Local Legend’s Surfest test

It’s the simple things that make Surfest special to Ryan Callinan.

The 27-year-old, who grew up a few streets back from Merewether Beach, will be the top local seed in the men’s Surfest Newcastle Pro next month.

Following a solid championship tour last year, Callinan knows there is “good” pressure on his shoulders heading into a new season.

The world number 14 claimed some impressive results in 2019, placing third at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach in Victoria, as well as fifth at the Margaret River Pro and Quiksilver Pro France.

Despite the lofty expectations, Callinan says he just can’t wait to do what he loves in front of his home crowd.

“It’s always nice to start the year off at home,” he says.

“To be able to sleep in my own bed, have those first few heats somewhere familiar, and just put the rashie on and get going.

“This year’s World Surf League (WSL) QS5000 event boasts prize money of US$120,000 and attracts the best male professional surfers in the world, including an honour roll littered with past world champions such as Tom Carroll, Barton Lynch, Mark Occhilupo, Kelly Slater, Tom Curren, and Joel Parkinson.Callinan says Surfest is “huge” for the city of Newcastle.

“Just to see some of the world’s best come to Newcastle and surf waves like everyone does around here all the time is pretty cool,” he says.

“Everyone seems to love Newcastle when they come here from what I hear, and Surfest has done wonders.

“I’m sure there are other sporting events in Newcastle that are just as big but, for me, in our world, this is almost as big as it gets.”

Apart from Callinan, more than 300 entrants will contest the two main events – the Surfest Newcastle Pro and Doyle Partners Women’s Pro – from Monday 2 to Sunday 8 March at Merewether.

World number 11 Julian Wilson is the number one seed in the men’s event, while France’s Johanne Defay, ranked eighth in the world, is the top seed in the women’s contest.

NSW Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, says Newcastle is a fitting – and welcome – host as 30 countries are set to be represented by 182 international surfers.

“Surfest 2020 is expected to attract more than 1,600 visitors to Newcastle and generate almost $2.1 million in tourism-related expenditure for the region,” he says.

Visit surfest.com for more.