COVER STORY: Newcastle’s Ryan Callinan finds the exit on a barrel during finals day at the Pipe Masters on Tuesday. Picture: © WSL / Kelly CestariFor Merewether’s Ryan Callinan, “it was a pretty good way to go out”.

Going head-to-head with 11-time world champion Kelly Slater in round five at the Pipe Masters, an event the American legend has won on seven occasions at the iconic Hawaiian break, was a memorable finish to a difficult maiden year on the championship tour for the popular 24-year-old.

The first Newcastle surfer on the elite circuit since Luke Egan in 2005, Callinan will not be back on the CT next year after finishing 34thin the standings and 17thon the qualifying series, where top-22 and top-10 finishes respectively guarantee places.Callinan, though, knew his fate before the season-ending event, where he producedeasily his best result of the year.

The goofy-footer had not been past the third round in the 10 CT contests before the Pipe Masters but showed his barrel-riding prowess to eliminate Caio Ibelli and 2014 world champion Gabriel Medina on Monday.On Tuesday, he was second in his non-elimination round-four contest to set up the clash with Slater, who prevailed 14.34 to 10.17.

After a slow start to the 25-minute heat, Callinan rode a 4.5-point barrel with just over 13 minutes left. Slater, though, was into the next barrel and earned a 6.17. He backed it up a minute later with a 4.43 and,with nine minutes to go,came out ofa deep tube ride foran 8.17.Callinan neededa 9.84 and cut the deficit with a5.67to leave him hunting an8.67 in the final seven minutes, but the right wave didn’t come.

Regardless, it was a satisfying finish for Callinan to a challenging year which included the deathof his father, Garry, a beloved member of the Newcastle surfing community, in February.

“Yeah, definitely, for my last heat, I think it was a pretty good way to go out,” Callinan said.“I didn’t really have the opportunities that I would have liked but,I just kind of wanted a few more sets like the heat before, but itwas fun to surf and the conditions cleaned up a lot more which was cool and, yeah, time to relax.”

BARREL OF FUN: Merewether’s Ryan Callinan charging at Backdoor Pipeline on Monday on his way to round four. Picture: © WSL / Cestari SOCIAL

Asked what he had learned on tour, he said:“I think everyone’s just really good, obviously, but a lot better and they surf out of their skin in heats.I just learned that I have to surf my best all the time, not just when I think I do, but actually just step it up every time. I think it’s just adapting to heats and trying to do my best surfing in the heats.”

As for 2017, he said: “I’m going to try and do a lot of trips and main goal is to requalify for the tour, that’s No.1, but Iwant to get some good waves in and just enjoy myself.”

Michel Bourez beat Kanoa Igarashi in the final.

MONDAY: Merewether’s Ryan Callinan was glad to put on a show for friends, family and some unexpected Newcastle support at Pipeline on Monday as he powered to his best performance on the championship tour.

Callinan defeated Brazilians Caio Ibelli and Gabriel Medina, the 2014 world champion, to move past the third round for the first time on his maiden CT campaign.

The 24-year-old, who has fallen short of qualifying for a second year on the CT,took down Medina 15.34 to11.43 in round three at the season-ending Pipe Mastersin Hawaii after earlier knocking out Ibelli 12.16 to 4.43.

Callinan, who has been beaten twice by Medina this year on the CT, led 9.77 to 4.33 early courtesy of a 6.67-point ride.Medina hit back with abarrel ride just before Callinan pulled off his own with 16 minutes remaining. Medina was given an 8.6 and Callinan an 8.67.

Callinan was wiped out and had his board broken with less than two minutes left, giving Medina, who needed a 6.75, the chance to steal the win. Callinan watched on from the beach as no waves came through and he progressed to a round-four contest, possibly on Tuesday,against countryman Josh Kerr and American Nat Young.

“I guess it’s a good end to the year already,” Callinan said after turning the tables on Medina.“I haven’t made it past the third round, it’s kind of got me, and I think the two guys that I’ve beaten today have kind of got me most of the events, so it’s good to get a bit of payback.

[email protected] upsets and eliminates @gabriel1medina in #BillabongPipeMasters Rd 3, Heat 7 https://t成都夜场招聘/fGxd8GzEaXpic.twitter成都夜总会招聘/Z8vYlT69ww

— World Surf League (@wsl) December 19, 2016Who did it better? @[email protected]#BillabongPipeMasters Watch live NOW! 👉https://t成都夜场招聘/fGxd8GzEaXpic.twitter成都夜总会招聘/tDDmuyFuEN

— World Surf League (@wsl) December 19, [email protected]n eliminates @CaioIbelli in #BillabongPipeMasters Rd 2, Heat 6 https://t成都夜场招聘/fGxd8GzEaXpic.twitter成都夜总会招聘/XyxFd7Wc6e

— World Surf League (@wsl) December 18, 2016

“I just let Kerrsy [Josh Kerr] goand I think he got a seven, which would have been a good back-up, but I thought‘I haven’t made many heats and I’d like to make another one, so I’ll hold priority while he’s comboed’.

“I don’t know, it’s tricky and I think you’ve just got to hunt around a little bit when there’s no priority, and there’s not that many waves out there but when they come, they are pretty good.

“But I think the last 20 minutes was pretty crucial.”