Meet and Greet: Pro Surfer Connor O’Leary

Published on 09 March 2018

meet & greet: pro surfer connor o'leary

Keen to know what it takes to trump surfing legend Kelly Slater, we sat down with the young Aussie legend ahead of his upcoming appearance for City Beach at Robina Town Centre.

Life’s pretty sweet for Connor O’Leary right now. The 24-year-old pro surfer has had an epic ascent: from teaching surf lessons to fund his surfing dreams to competing against – and defeating – 11-time world champ Kelly Slater in the World Surf League competition in Fiji last year.

Currently in town for the annual Quicksilver Pro surf competition, O’Leary will be part of a stellar line-up of pro surfers set to descend on The Kitchens for City Beach’s Meet the Surfers event this Saturday.

Keen to get to know him a little better, we sat down with Connor to hear more about his inspiring journey.

We hear that your mum surfed in pro events in her native Japan back in the day. Was she a big part of the reason you picked up a board?

I’m very privileged to have two parents that both love surfing heaps. When I was younger, they would go on surf trips in Australia and overseas and I’d get to tag along.

I was about seven or eight when I really got the love and the bug for it. I started on a boogie board and got bored, so started standing up on it. Then I really started getting into it. By the time I was about 12 years old, I started doing surf events around Australia and it just took over my weekends. 

How do your parents feel seeing you surf now?

They’re stoked! I’m doing something they love and watching me surf makes them really proud. It’s also pretty cool to be able to run out and go surfing with your whole family on the weekend.

How did you feel beating Kelly Slater last year?

It was good! It was pretty overwhelming. I’ve been watching him surf my whole life, then I had to sit side-by-side with him and had 30 minutes to beat him. I tried not to think about it too much and just focused on surfing really fun waves. It was amazing to enjoy it with him out there.

What are you looking forward to most at the Quicksilver Pro?

It’s always exciting because it’s the first event of the year. It’s cool to see all the new faces coming on tour and see what people have been doing and how their surfing has changed.

What’s your advice for young surfers with big dreams?

I wasn’t the best surfer when I was younger. I didn’t have natural talent. I just practised and was really dedicated to improving. It’s good to remember that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

When was younger, I thought there were so many kids that were better than me. But now I know that if you just keep focused on trying to get better and not worry about anything else, then a lot of important things can happen. Instead of focusing on the results, just focus on improving.

You travel for most of the year as part of your job. What’s your favourite surfing spot so far?

Last year in Fiji was the best. We were staying on a little island with all the competitors and it was literally paradise. I had to remind myself that I was there for an event and not a holiday.

Keen to meet Connor? He’s joining fellow Quicksilver and Roxy Pro competitors including Mikey Wright, Bronte Macaulay, Caroline Marks, Matt Wilkinson and Joel Parkinson at City Beach’s ‘Meet the Surfers’ event at The Kitchens this Saturday 10 March.

City Beach: Meet the Surfers

Date: Saturday 10 March

Time: 1.30pm

Location: The Kitchens, Robina Town Centre.