Merewether surfer Ryan Callinan looked to the skies as he made a tearful dedication to his late parents, Garry and Janice, after a breakthrough qualifying series victory in Japan on Saturday.
Callinan defeated Hawaiian Seth Moniz 13.2 to 11.7 in small surf at the 6000-point Ichinomiya Chiba Open, a day before his 26th birthday.
It was the 2016 championship competitor’s first senior QS victory and came seven years since his last time in a final. That was when he won an pro junior contest in 2011 in South Australia.
The victory in Japan came just over a year since the shock death of Janice Callinan on Mother’s Day 2017 from a medical condition. Ryan lost his father, Garry, a life member of Merewether Surfboard Club, to leukemia in February 2016, just before his maiden CT campaign.
Ryan was overwhelmed after Saturday’s win, which gives him an excellent shot of qualifying again for the CT.
“I’d like to dedicate this to my parents, who recently passed away. It feels good. It felt like they sent me a few,” Callinan said as he looked to the heavens and broke into tears. He also thanked, while fighting back tears, his sponsors and supporters.
“They just seem to have my back all the time,” he said. “It’s been a bit of a slow patch for me the past few years, and just for them to stick by me, be patient and confident in me, it’s a really good feeling.”
The victory pushed Callinan from 72nd to fourth on the QS rankings and puts him in the frame for a return to the CT. The top 10 from the QS, based on each surfer’s top five results, are guaranteed a place on the 2019 CT. The QS has a maximum of six 10,000-point and one 6000-point contests left.
Ezekiel Lau was 10th on the QS last year with 16,750 points and Callinan should easily finish inside that mark with a steady run at the 10,000-point events.
“It’s a huge leap,” Callinan said of his rise in the rankings.
“But I’m not even thinking about the rankings right now. I’m just thinking about the win and I’m just so happy to be here in Japan.”
The powerful goofy-footer showed great judgement and skill at Shida Point, where the small, bumpy surf better suited the nimble Hawaiian.
“It’s not ideal conditions today and it’s pretty shifty,” Callinan said. “This beach changes a lot but I feel like if you can adapt a little bit, and I just happened to get two that just stood up really nicely, and I got off a few turns.
“Seth’s been amazing. He’s one of standouts of the event, he got that 10 and he’s a phenomenal surfer.
“He’s going to have a great future and I’m stoked I got to share this with him.”
Callinan had the better start in the 35-minute final with a 4.43 on his forehand. He followed that with a 4.1 to lead after nine minutes. Moniz took back the advantage with a six but Callinan produced a 6.2 with two turns to go ahead narrowly.
Callinan then took control with a three-turn ride with 12 minutes to go for a seven. It left Moniz needing a 7.2 and he went for broke with an aerial punt with just 40 second remaining, but he couldn’t ride out of the landing.
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