When Connor O'Leary's mother, Akemi Karasawa, used to take her young son from his home in Australia to Japan each year, she had no way of knowing he would become one of Australia's best surfers. But in hindsight, it's hardly surprising.

Akemi, who is Japanese, is herself a long-time surfing competitor. And that passion was passed down to Connor along with a deep love of his Japanese heritage.

So, while O'Leary may have grown up in Cronulla, just south of Sydney, he was never far removed from friends and family in Japan. He'd spend at least a few months of every year there, learning to speak the language and connecting with a culture he holds as highly as his love for Australia.

Connor O'Leary Now Wears Both The Australian And Japanese Flags On His Jersey
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O'Leary celebrates the connection to his Japanese heritage on the Championship Tour with a new jersey unveiled in Newcastle.

Now, Connor can celebrate his connection to his Japanese heritage on the Championship Tour with a new jersey unveiled today - on one sleeve will be the Australian flag, representative of his home country, and on the other Japan, representing his Japanese heritage.

"My mum is Japanese and I have a deep connection to the culture, country, and its people - especially the fans in Japan," O'Leary told the WSL ahead of the first event of the Australian leg of the Championship Tour, the Rip Curl Newcastle Cup presented by Corona.

"I talked about it with my wife, Steph, and the more I thought about it the more I thought, how cool would it be to represent Japan, which is such a big part of me."

Connor O'Leary Mom Akemi Connor O'Leary's mom, Akemi Karasawa, was a competitive surfer in Japan during her younger years, helping to expose Connor not only to the ocean but also his cultural heritage. - WSL

"Australia will always be the country I represent because I have grown up here and lived here my whole life, but the other half of me is Japanese."

The gesture of the dual flags is just one way to show the whole world how proud he is of his Japanese heritage.

This jersey change is something that has been more on O'Leary's mind as he has become more experienced since his rookie year on the Championship Tour in 2017. It is also a tribute to his mother, who passed a love of competitive surfing down to her son alongside the knowledge and appreciation of his Japanese heritage.

"My mum has a huge surfing background, she used to compete back in the day when she was in her 20s and 30s at a professional level. Dad also surfed, but not competitively," O'Leary said.

Connor O'Leary at the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Connor O'Leary pictured at Bells Beach during his rookie year on Tour in 2017. - WSL / sherm

O'Leary still tries to spend time in Japan each year, especially to further his Japanese language skills and to stay in touch with friends and family. The gesture of the dual flags is just one way to show the whole world how proud he is of this aspect of his life.

"It hopefully inspires a lot of young Japanese athletes. The sky's the limit."

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