Connor O'Leary On Mixing It Up With The Elite

13 Dec 2016 1 Share

WIN A TRIP TO THE 2017 QUIK PRO | INTERVIEW

Video by Darcy Ward Visuals
Interview by Coastalwatch 

The product of two surf lovers – mum a pro back in Japan and dad, super keen and quick in the water – his childhood was spent on the golden sands of one of Sydney’s most iconic beaches. By the time he was 7-years-old he was graduating from the booger to his dad’s board and refining his promising style for a big future. He has just given himself the best Christmas present ever, finishing the year as number one on the WQS rankings and solidifying his spot among the top surfers in the world for 2017

This year he’s been travelling and harnessing his 2015 successes alongside with Stu Kennedy, who if anything has influenced his focus and on the side, his playlist choices. Beats like Australian Crawl and Midnight Oil have been circulating he tells us.

SEE ALSO: Mark Mono Stewart Is Australia's Newest World Champ

This time last year, we spoke to O’Leary after he defeated Gabriel Medina at the Hawaiian Pro, he told us, all he wanted for Christmas last year was to qualify for the World Tour in 2016. Unfortunately, he was knocked off the top of the qualification list at the last moment and has spent the year working his butt off to make sure that qualification was a certainty. He did it too!

“Yeah, wow!” O’Leary said, “Compared to last year, it feels amazing. I mean I wasn’t really expecting to be as close as I got to qualification last year but it did sting a little, ending up just outside the cut. Getting so close gave me the confidence this year though.”

The real game-changer happened with a huge win at the Ballito Pro QS 10,000 event. O’Leary admitted was a crazy and overwhelming feeling. “The waves were so fun all week and I was staying on the beach with Stu Kennedy and Davey Cathels. We had a good crew. I just worked through the comp heat-by-heat and didn’t think about anything else. All of a sudden I was in the final and winning. The commentators counted the heat down and it was the most indescribable feeling of elation. It was a win that definitely gave me the drive and momentum to finish the year strong.”

That indescribable feeling of winning a major QS event, Photo by WSL/Cestari

That indescribable feeling of winning a major QS event, Photo by WSL/Cestari

So with it in the bag, what does qualification for the Cronulla local really mean and feel like? “You know what, it feels amazing. I mean coming to Hawaii, I was sitting at an okay spot for qualification, but I just wanted to make a few heats in either of the events to show everyone that I can surf decent waves, not just below average waves that are served up on the QS the whole year.” “I got fifth place at Haleiwa and that felt amazing. The waves were pumping and it was a really good event to watch. Everyone was ripping, so I was pretty happy to win a few heats.”

When you qualify for the WCT and essentially begin a journey that is, living your life-long dream, does your training change, and your quiver? What are your summer plans? “I haven’t been home since October so I’m going to enjoy Christmas at home. With my boards, I’m just going to stick to the boards I’ve been riding. I’ve had the luxury of riding for an amazing company in Channel Islands Surfboards and they have been so good. Going into the CT events I won’t be using my step-down grovelers as much as on the QS, which will be a nice change.”

“With training I’m going to keep on the same track. If it’s working why change right? I’ve been working with Martin Dunn since I first started surfing. We focus on technique, strategy and heat practice. He’s been a huge part of getting me to where I am over the last two years. Blake Johnson is also an amazing mentor to me at home bouncing ideas off him like boards, line-ups and preparation. They’re really invaluable conversations.”

What do you think you’ll get out of being surrounded by the top surf athletes in the world next year? “I’m going to be like a sponge and any good advice people with CT experience give me, I’ll soak it right up and use it as best I can. But I won’t forget to have a bit of fun too.”


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