You’d be happy too if you just insured CT qualification. Photo: Bosko
Heading into the Hawaiian leg of the 2015 Qualifying Tour, 22-year-old Sydney-native Connor O'Leary was sitting just inside the cutline to make the 2016 CT roster. He knew that in order to maintain that position, he'd have to put up a massive result at Haleiwa or Sunset. He failed to do so and slid all the way to 15th in the rankings. That was his first year competing full-time on the QS.
Coming into 2016, Connor didn't know what to expect. Part of him felt exceptionally confident based on his early successes on the Q, but he also knew that many surfers before him had come close time and time again, only to never cross the finish line. What if last year was his one big opportunity? This question surely gnawed at Connor in moments of contemplation.
But then 2016 started, and he got a solid result. A confidence builder. 2015 wasn't a fluke. Then a few more decent results, a couple stumbles, then BAM – a win in Ballito. A 10,000 point event — as big as they get on the Quey. Just like that, he was back in the driver's seat. 23-years-old and in the position, yet again, to achieve one of his lifelong dreams of joining the elite surfing tour. But then it came back to Hawaii.
Holding roughly 19,000 points heading into the Vans Triple Crown, Connor was considered "almost safe" by WSL numbers guy Al Hunt. "Almost safe" wasn't good enough for Connor. If he wanted to make the top 34, he knew he couldn’t leave it up to chance again. So he went ahead and made the semis at Haleiwa.
The 5,300 point 5th place finish landed Connor atop the QS with a total of 24,025 points — a number that is statistically impossible to be overtaken by 9+ surfers, meaning he is guaranteed a spot on the 2017 Championship Tour. Finally he can relax, right? Well, not quite.
Connor can’t wait to leave the QS beach breaks behind… still gotta practice for Rio, though. Photo: Bosko
The following are a series of quotes that will explain Connor's views on his past, present, and future.
"I still want to do well at Sunset. It’s a great proving ground to show everyone you can surf well at the most difficult spot on the QS calendar, especially with all the Tour guys doing it too."
On his favorite CT locations
Honestly I’m just excited to surf some decent waves for an event! That’s the most exciting thing for me. But specifically, I’m really looking forward to Fiji, Chopes and Pipe. I want to challenge myself in waves like those, and as a goofy footer, who doesn’t want to surf a left tube?
On his goals for 2017
I Just want to get comfortable surfing against the world's best. I'm not trying to put too much pressure on myself. I seem to do my best surfing when I’m completely relaxed and calm, unlike some other people that like to be pumped up and completely focused.
I'm not setting any goals in regard to results yet [laughs].
On something people may not know about him
My mum is a Japanese surfing champion — still surfs well to this day! It’s so good seeing someone like my mum still loving being in the ocean and still with a massive smile on her face when she gets a good wave.
On his favorite surfer
It's gotta be Rob Machado. I’ve loved watching him surf since I was about 13. So smooth and amazing to watch! Plus he's a goofy footer so it's hard to look away from that.
On the best candy
I really love the Sour Patch Watermelons, but I can't betray the classic Peach Rings. They're an all-time favorite
I believe there are other forms of life out there, but whether they are aliens or not… I guess we'll have to wait and see [laughs].