Stab Magazine | Julian Wilson Ties* With Ryan Callinan At Surfest Newcastle

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Julian Wilson Ties* With Ryan Callinan At Surfest Newcastle

But a countback hands the former Queenslander the win!

news // Mar 8, 2020
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Oh my, Surfest Newcastle always tends to deliver! Merewether delivered point-break-esque banks at the event’s beginning and the Pacific Ocean provided ample swell for the weeklong stint. While finals day was a little mushy due to some southerly winds, there were still head-high lumps rolling in and enough sections to close the first proper event of the year off.

On Saturday, Bronte Macaulay took out the women’s QS event in some wobbly surf nudging past fellow CTer Macy Callaghan. The waves might’ve been wonky, but the two new CT surfers proved their worth in some beachbreak peaks. We’ll certainly see a bunch more of this—both good surfing and shitty waves—over the next 9 months on the tour.

Today, Round 5 of the men’s comp continued in deteriorating conditions, but there was enough oomph to see us through to the final. 

The morning kicked off with the Queenslander turned Novocastrian, Julian Wilson, knocking out my favourite surfer and URBNSURF regular, Mitch Crews. By the time the quarter finals rolled around there was Julian, Joan Duru, Matt Banting, Ian Gouveia, Reef Heazlewood, Ryan Callinan, and some other internationals I haven’t heard of left in the drawer. But in some onshore peaks, the local knowledge of R-Cal and Julian* was enough to see them through to the final, with Ryan decimating Ian in his semi with a pair of ‘excellent’ waves and Julian nudging past the Peruvian Alonso Correa. 

The final however is where things get interesting. 

Second wave of the heat, Julian took off and hammered out three Wilson frontside staples on the best wave of the heat. The judges threw him an 8.50, leaving Ryan chasing for much of the remainder. Julian grabbed another wave for a mid-range 5.77 a few minutes later and found himself in the lead with a comfy 14.27 heat total. 

R-Cal with a layback en route to finals day. Photo: WSL

Ryan hit back with a few backhand whacks for a 6.50, and then later took off on a clean one to belt two backhand nooners which the judges were instantly comparing to Julian’s 8.50 from the heat’s beginning. Needing a 7.78 to take the lead, the judges deliberated and eventually the score dropped. A 7.77. That’s right, 0.01 less than what he needed to take the lead. Julian and Ryan were tied. 

With a handful of minutes left on the clock, neither Julian nor Ryan could break the deadlock as nothing of substance rolled in. The timer ticked down, the buzzer sounded, and while the scoreboard showed a tie, Julian was handed the win on a countback. 

What’s a countback you might ask? Well, when two surfers are tied at the end the winner is determined by whoever had the highest wave. In this case, that was Julian with his 8.50. While there’s been a number of memorable countback decisions over the years—most notably Kelly Slater and John Florence at Teahupo’o in 2014—its been sometime since we’ve seen a final decided by the method. 

Yeah it was only a QS event, and neither Ryan nor Julian are fighting for the QS points, it raises an interesting question as to the system. Is a countback the best method?

Currently, as per the WSL rulebook, if two surfers are tied at the heat’s end, the heat is decided by the highest score. In this case, that was Julian Wilson. If however two surfers have the exact same scores, then the result is decided by whoever had the highest ranking going into the event—quite a backwards idea, if you ask me. Anyway, back to the countback.

If you want to judge the heat based on the best surfing, it makes sense to give it to the surfer who received the highest score: they did the best surfing in the heat. If however you’re more about consistency (the person with the highest score with also have the lowest in their top two), you might need another metric. A surf off isn’t really feasible considering how stacked events already are, and on this Sunday afternoon I can’t think of any better solutions. 

If your mind is feeling spritely, discuss below what you think a better alternative might be. 

*Julian isn’t really a ‘local’, he just moved to Newy a few years ago. 


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