Rookie Connor O'Leary wasn't getting a lot of headline attention heading into the 2017 season, but that's how he prefers it. He doesn't mind playing the role of dark horse. After all, he played it well as he won the 2016 Qualifying Series without fanfare, making him the leader of this year's high-profile rookie class.
O'Leary is a second generation pro surfer. His mom was a champion from Japan. Yet he cut his teeth in Cronulla, NSW, the same Sydney suburb that produced a number of gritty goofyfooters, including Jim Banks, Mark Occhilupo, Richard Marsh and Gary Green. And while his hometown's surf history is rich, it's hardly a prime target of Australia's surf media spotlight. As a result, surfers like O'Leary, with dreams of hitting the Tour, must work harder and travel further to make their dreams happen. Today, that mindset is a key to his success.