Connor O’Leary was one of seven impressive rookies who graduated to the Championship Tour in 2017. Of the bunch he was easily the most unsung. During his journey to the top of the Qualifying Series rankings in 2016 the lanky goofyfoot from Cronulla, New South Wales, barely registered on the media’s radar. But none of that bothered the genial workhorse who grew up the son of two hardcore surfing parents. His mother, Akemi, was a Japanese champion before moving to Australia. She met Connor’s dad, Finbar, at a pro event there in the late 80s. They taught Connor how to surf at the same breaks where Aussie surf legend Mark Occhilupo got his start. Over the past few years the tight-knit Cronulla community has been rallying around O’Leary’s climb. At the start of 2016, he was still putting in hours at his local surf shop, not because he needed the money, per say, but the satisfaction of helping others is something that drives him. O’Leary prefers flying under the radar. It certainly worked for him in 2017, with his Quarterfinal appearance at Snapper and runner-up finish in Fiji leading him to his No. 13 spot on the Jeep Leaderboard.
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