Admit it: Before Connor O’Leary blitzed the World Qualifying Series in 2016 — winning the whole damn thing and qualifying for the World Tour — you had no idea who he was. And that’s OK. Neither did we.
The half-Irish, half-Japanese goofyfoot from Cronulla, Australia, has always flown under the radar. He never won a junior championship title — hell, he never even qualified to compete for one — he’s never had a six-figure contract and he’s never been hailed as “the next big thing” by pro-surf pundits.
So when he won the Qualifying Series (QS), besting a highly touted group of World Tour qualifiers that included Leonardo Fioravanti, Ezekiel Lau, Ethan Ewing and Frederico Morais, a lot of people (us included) asked, “Connor … who?”
But even if you didn’t know O’Leary by name, you couldn’t deny his obvious merits on a surfboard. His tack-sharp backside attack and clinical frontside rail work turned heads from the very start of the 2017 World Tour season. O’Leary earned a quarterfinal finish at the Quik Pro Gold Coast, followed by a second-place result at the Outerknown Fiji Pro, which marked only his fifth appearance in an elite-level event. As of press time, he sits in 10th place overall, leading the rookie class with three events to go. Considering the likelihood of him finishing the season as Rookie of the Year, and the damage he’s sure to do on Tour for the foreseeable future, O’Leary is finally finding himself in the unfamiliar glow of the spotlight.