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What I Think About, With Ryan Callinan

From Stab Issue 66: What I Think About…

With Ryan Callinan, 20, Merewether, NSW | Interview by Elliot Struck

What are your favourite sounds? I like birds chirping in the morning and I really like crickets in the evening. If the birds are chirping, it means it’s a nice morning and if the crickets are out, it means it’s a nice afternoon. I like them to just be subtle in the background of whatever I’m doing ‘cause it’s a really peaceful vibe.

What is heaven for you? Heaven is a place on Earth. There’s so many different variations. I’ve been hanging out a lot at home lately and there’s been some nice days when I’ve just sat at the beach with, like, 10 mates. We just talk shit, watching the waves. Then we run out for a coupla waves, come back in and sit there again ‘til dark. Fun waves at home, hanging out with mates, watching and talking shit? They’re some of the best arvos, or best feelings, that I’ve had in a long time. But then there’s also some surf trips. I went on one recently with Billabong, to Lakey Peak, and we scored incredible waves. We were surfing six, seven, eight hours a day, every day. You’d finish the day and there’d be nothing to do but relax. There’s nothing around so you’re not worried about anything. It’s not work. You’re having too much fun. That feeling of surfing perfect waves all day, being surfed-out at night and knowing there’s gonna be waves again tomorrow, and having that for a week straight, is pretty damn good.

How does it feel to huck into the wind? It’s amazing, but especially good when you’ve been waiting a long time for ramps, like if it’s been offshore or just wrong. Then when you finally get a wave that gives you a coupla ramps, and to paddle in and have a section come at you, where you know your board is gonna stick to your feet… you take off and can’t feel the wind, then you hit the lip and just know that everything’s gonna go how you want it, or make it a lot easier because the board’s stuck to your feet. You don’t have to worry about the grab or your board blowing away or flipping under your feet. It gives you a feeling of freedom, like, I can push this, and it also gives you a feeling of comfort because you’re not gonna watch your board flip and come down on your fins or something. Knowing you can huck yourself in and that it’ll be ok, and the only way you can fuck it is if you go too big, is comforting.

What’s the worst insult you’ve ever received? This is by no means the worst I’ve had but, most recently, I had someone come up to me and say, “You know how everyone thinks you’re nice? I reckon you’re not. I reckon you’re mean. And just because you smile, you get away with it.” I was like, “Uh, thanks man.” But the worst insult I’ve received? Probably on your website. I haven’t had many bad ones to my face.

What’s hard for you? Having injuries was the hardest thing for me. Getting back to where I wanted to be was hard and I guess I’m still getting over them in some way. Also, sometimes you go somewhere and people know you from surfing and that’s all they talk to you about because it’s something they have in common with you. Sometimes I just think, “I’ve spoken to you 300 times and you’ve asked me the same question every time. I do other things too, guys.” But it’s nice that people are talking to you, I guess. I lack motivation at times, too. It’s not that bad. It’s more the training side of it. You train so hard for a coupla weeks then you go on a trip and you can’t train on the trip, and you get out of the rhythm. Jumping back into it is hard and there’s no one here to train with so it’s all on me.

What was the best part about being injured? I actually didn’t mind the first injury. I was surfing so hard and so much I felt like I needed a bit of a break. So, eight weeks out of the water was a really good thing. I was really psyched when I got back. You never wanna get injured but it was a forced rest. But by the second and third, it was like, “Fuck off! I’ve had my break!”

What was the worst part about being injured? The second forced rest. But I also hated everyone asking me about it all the time. They still ask me about it. I have an automated response now. “How’re your ankles?” “Yeah, they’re good. Back to normal. Everything’s sweet.” I actually did a grade one tear to the medial ligament in my knee on the Kustom Air Strike trip, which I didn’t tell anyone about ‘cause I didn’t wanna speak to people about it. I was out for six weeks or so. I kept it on the down-low ‘cause last time I went down to the beach and every day the same people would say, “How is it feeling?” And I’d be thinking, “Same as yesterday.” It was interesting the way my perception changed from the first injury to the second. Then by that third one, I didn’t wanna be asked. It’s cool in a way that everyone’s concerned about you. And it’s a bit selfish of me. But, y’know…

Take the bust of Socrates, imagine the beard swept away, substitute a Billabong shirt buttoned to the neck, add a porcelain dog and the result is Ryan Callinan. Photographed in Hossegor, France, by Duncan Macfarlane

Take the bust of Socrates, imagine the beard swept away, substitute a Billabong shirt buttoned to the neck, add a porcelain dog and the result is Ryan Callinan. Photographed in Hossegor, France, by Duncan Macfarlane

What’s the most curious album in your collection? I’ve got some weird stuff in there. I’ve got a bunch of kinda pop music. Like, Rob Thomas. The Script. Music like that, really love-y songs. Every now and then I listen to them and get all deep. I listen to them if I’m doing a long drive but sometimes you just feel like listening to something more peaceful and nice. I wish I could say I run a bubble bath, set up some candles and pour a glass of red wine to listen to that stuff, but I can’t. It’s just when I’m trying to relax. I might start running bubble baths, though…

What’s right with the world? With things like the Boston bombings, I think all the support people show for things like that is right. Obviously worse things happen in the world and you don’t hear as much about them, but the things that we’re exposed to, I like seeing the amount of support that goes out to those things. Even just all the Instagram posts after Boston, maybe they’re not helping out, but it’s nice to know people’s thoughts are there, I think. I also think people are more free to do their own thing now and I like that. There’s smaller brands doing what they want to do and they’re not multi-million dollar businesses, but they’re not trying to be. And, individually, people can be more themselves. I think the world’s more open to people’s fashion choices or hairstyles or sub-cultures now. I feel like it was different 10 years ago. Imagine someone in skinny jeans, buttons done all the way up on their shirt, with a short back and sides haircut 10 years ago. They would’ve been so roasted! I like when people can be themselves.

What was the last film that moved you? I watched Flight the other day with Denzel Washington and it was really uncomfortable for me to watch. It’s about a pilot who’s a raging alcoholic. On the plane he’s flying, one of the engines fails in the air. He crashes, and saves 100 people. Six die. He stops drinking and everything, then they tell him that his alcohol reading when he got on the flight was point-one-something so he can get charged for negligent flying. And he just relapses. It’s really intense, I felt really uncomfortable. He’s drinking so much, getting so drunk every day, early in the morning or whatever, and it made me think, “Far out, people actually do that.” It’s a good movie, just intense.

What do you like most about yourself? I think it’s that I’m so positive and happy all the time. People say that when you get told something so often, you start to believe it. I’ve been told that a lot so it’s sunk in a lot, and it’s probably made me even more positive. I’ve stayed happy and stayed positive. I get down and I get bummed and upset, but it’s not as much as what other people do.

What is your motto or words to live by? I’m not sure I have a motto, but I guess just to be happy and positive, and there’s no point being sad. We actually had this discussion during a car trip to Byron Bay for New Years’ Eve two years ago. There were some funny ones. My pal Jesse asked me, “What’s your life motto?” I just said, “Smile, or don’t.” I guess it’d be something like that. It’d have to be: “Why not smile?”

Has there ever been a point when surfing stopped being fun? I have had a couple of stages like that. Not for very long but I just didn’t feel like surfing. It stopped when I was working for my Dad. Beforehand I was less excited about surfing but after a week or two of work with Dad, I’d be racing home every arvo to go surfing, so psyched. That helped. There’s stages, f’sure – I can pick those stages now, though, and just have a coupla days off or whatever and come back rejuvenated. If you’re getting over it, you force yourself to stop for a few days, even if there’s waves, just don’t drive past the beach, and you get the froth back. Especially if you force yourself to do business stuff and emails for three days. By the end you’re just going, “Fuck this! I wanna go surfing!”

What remarkable things have you seen in remarkable places? Hainan in China. That was weird. I was really surprised there by the lack of completion on all the buildings. Whether or not it was just the island I went to, there was a lot of unfinished buildings. We walked over the hill from where the comp was one day and there was this huge abandoned hotel. We walked all through that and although the rooms weren’t made, the whole structure was there, you could tell which rooms would be bedrooms. It was like they’d just run out of money half through and gone, “Nope, can’t do it.” We climbed to the very top, four stories up, and there was a lookout tower. There was a pool up there and everything. The stairs were made, but no railings. It was like it was 60 percent done and then they’d abandoned it. That tripped me out so much. Driving through the city, you’d see the same thing, so many unfinished buildings. So much wasted concrete.

What do you wonder about? I wonder about a lot of things. My mind wonders all the time. I turn 21 at the end of this month and I wonder about when I’m gonna move out, if I’m gonna buy a house or if I’m gonna be able to afford it, or pay rent, stuff like that. Even, like, my Medicare runs out when I turn 21. Just growing up and being more independent. All those bills and everything. Everyone else does it, though, so it’ll work out. I’m so grateful to my parents for helping me out so much, but it’s gotta stop soon.

Ryan-Callinan-Sequence

Making a sensation with an unfolding mute, Western Australia. Photos by Damea Dorsey

  • poopoobrown

    Wonderful insight into an intelligent guy!

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