Mick Fanning knows what it takes to battle back from tragedy and succeed on surfing’s biggest stage.
And the three-time world champion believes Merewether’s Ryan Callinan will "do great things” on the championship tour after his own stunning comeback.
Fanning was in Newcastle on Sunday to help open the new Rip Curl store at The Junction. The 37-year-old, who retired after two events on the CT this season, lost his brother, Sean, in a car accident in 1998 before his stellar career. He also mourned his brother, Peter, in 2015.
Callinan was on the CT in 2016, just after his father, Garry, died. He didn’t requalify then lost his mother, Janice, the next year. He has made an emotional return this year to qualify again as well as make the France Pro final as a wildcard.
Fanning has long been a fan of Callinan and was excited to see him back on the CT.
“Anyone who loses family members, it’s extremely tough and to do it while you’re in the spotlight as well just 10 folds it,” Fanning said. “He had a lot of support but there’s still those nights when you’re by yourself and you’re thinking – it’s still hard.
“I’m just super stoked to see him doing well and getting back on tour again where he belongs. Just seeing him happy is the main thing.”
Fanning, also a selector for the Australian 2020 Olympic surfing team, believed Callinan would rise to the occasion next year on tour.
“He had a really tough year on tour in 2016,” he said. “He surfed amazingly. He was putting up some of the highest heat totals but he just always ran into the guys who were just that little bit better, but I think with the new seed and coming in with new confidence, I think he’s going to do some great things.
“Getting that wildcard in France and doing so well there, I think that instilled a lot of belief in him as well.”
Fanning is the only most successful male surfer at Newcastle’s Surfest, winning the event three times, but he has not competed in the region for several years.
“It’s been a long time,” he said.
“The boys were asking me when was the last time I was here, but I can’t even remember.
“But I had some great times here. Surfest was always great and having heroes like Mark Richards, Andrew Johns, Bedsy and Gids. Those guys were awesome to hang out with.”
For the best part of two decades, Fanning would spend December in Hawaii chasing the triple crown and, at times, a world title. However, Fanning said he was “not missing the competition side of it at all”.
“I’m having more fun just trying to chase down swells and expressing my surfing in different ways,” he said.
“I’ve had so many cool trips, to Alaska, Africa, but even just having the time to shoot down the coast from home and chase swells with your mates is also fun.
“Just everything about it is good. Not just worrying about tomorrow, it’s just worrying about what’s going on where you are.”