DRY-DOCKED: Ryan Callinan at the Australian Open of Surfing at Manly yesterday. – Picture by Grant SprouleAS one of the world’s best young aerial surfers, Ryan Callinan rarely needs a lift.
Nanjing Night Net

But after suffering back-to-back leg injuries performing his signature backside air reverse move, the 19-year-old from Merewether was searching for a positive while watching the Australian Open of Surfing this week at Manly.

That came yesterday with news he was one of three finalists for the Rising Star honour at the Australian Surfing Awards to be held in Manly tomorrow night.

He will vie with Davey Cathels and Tyler Wright for the award, but the nomination alone is a boost for Callinan, who is nursing a grade-three ligament tear in his left ankle.

He suffered the injury three weeks ago in the final round of the world junior series at Burleigh Heads, which was his comeback event from a broken right leg sustained while free-surfing after the opening contest of the world titles at Bali.

‘‘I knew the awards were on, but I didn’t really think about being nominated or anything,’’ Callinan said. ‘‘I was pretty stoked. It sucks that I’ve had all these injuries, but it’s good to still get nominated and still get a bit of exposure.

‘‘Hopefully I can win it – that would be cool.’’

The goofy-footer hopes to be surfing in time for Surfest on his home break next month.

The highlight of 2011 competition for Callinan was finishing second in the Australasian junior series after winning the last event at Waitpinga Beach in South Australia.

But Callinan has starred in other ways. His aerial wizardry featured in surf movies Lost Atlas and Blow Up and he appeared on the cover of Surfer, Surfing World and Waves magazines.

‘‘I had a couple of good movie sections and a few covers, so it was a good year for me,’’ he said.

His spectacle manoeuvres and impressive results have turned heads around the world and led to talk of Callinan being the next big thing in Australian men’s surfing.

But the laid-back character is trying to keep a lid on things.

‘‘There’s a bit of pressure, for sure,’’ Callinan said.

‘‘I try to block it out a little bit, but it’s there obviously.

‘‘I don’t know, I just try and have fun and hopefully I can keep doing what I’m doing.’’

As for the backside air reverse, which has brought him undone in recent times but brought him to the attention of the surfing world, he said he would tread carefully.

‘‘The two injuries have basically been from the same thing, so I’ll probably be a bit scared to try them the next time I’m back in the water. Hopefully it’s all good.’’

Fellow Merewether surfers Jake Sylvester and Jesse Adam bowed out in the opening round of the World Qualifying Series event at Manly yesterday.

● One of the superstars of women’s surfing, Lisa Andersen, hopes to make a return to competition in this month’s Women’s World Tour contest on the Gold Coast, the opening event of 2012.

The 42-year-old, who retired in 2003, was given a wildcard in the Gold Coast event the following year but has not donned a competitor’s singlet since.

The four-time world champion will compete in the trials for the event on February 24.

‘‘You couldn’t ask for a better pool of talent [at the moment]; it’s the best in the history of the sport,’’ Andersen said.