It took a long time but the moment that Connor O’Leary has been waiting for is almost finally here.
Welcome to the big time. O’Leary’s first heat in the Quiksilver Pro on the Gold Coast, the first stop on the 2017 World Surf League Championship Tour, can’t get much harder with O’Leary up against 2016 World Champion John John Florence and Mikey Wright, a Quiksilver wildcard surfer.
“I’m not striving for a crazy result first up,” O’Leary said.
“I just want to go in there and feel my way through at my own pace and hopefully get a few good waves.”
If he thought his first heat was hard how about round one, heat seven – Kelly Slater vs. Mick Fanning vs. Jeremy Flores – as 14 World Championship title belts face off.
The world’s best surfers also hit the red carpet for the 2017 WSL Awards, the night that celebrates the achievements of last season and officially opens the new Championship Tour year.
Accolades and awards were delivered to those who have contributed to the sport, including O’Leary and Silvana Lima, the WQS number one qualifiers.
O’Leary, sponsored by Quiksilver, is the first Cronulla surfer since Kirk Flintoff in 2005 to qualify for the WCT and the goofy footer has the whole Sutherland Shire surfing community behind him. Finally local surfers have someone to follow.
Blake Johnston and the MOB surf store have really put their hearts on their sleeves, printing Connor O’Leary t-shirts and decorating the shop window.
O’Leary is not doing it all on his own. In a professional stroke of genius he has linked up with fellow goofy footer and ironically his Wanda neighbor and former world tour surfer Luke Egan as a coach and mentor.
“It’s an investment for me. I want to get as comfortable as I can as quick I can and Luke’s been to every spot like 20 times so he can tell me things I wouldn’t know if I was just there by myself,” O’Leary told Tracks magazine on the eve of his first event.
O’Leary isn't the only local surfer making waves this week with Elouera club mate Jared Hickel finishing third at the Komunity Project Central Coast Pro on Sunday after a good day of beachbreaks at Avoca-Hiroto Ohhara and Holly Wawn took top honours.
Fellow goofy footer Harrison Martin made the sixth round and Shane Campbell went in the fourth. Campbell has had a good Vissla NSW Pro Surf Series which was developed for Australian surfers to gain ranking points and prize money on the WSL Qualifying Series.
It leaves him in 39th place on the international rankings and fifth place on the Australasian rating – a good stepping stone.
At the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast event officials called the competition off for the day yesterday due to unfavorable conditions on offer but anticipate improved conditions and increased swell toward the end of the week. It’s on hold today, next call is at 11am.
“It is great to be back here on the Gold Coast,” said WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow. “The off-season went by really fast and we are excited to get this season underway. We will not be running competition today. It is not great out there this morning. There is a lot of windswell, really short period, so the conditions are not ideal right now. “
So Connor will have to wait.
Cronulla surfers have had everything this week,from 8ft + offshore waves on Saturday,super good waves on Sunday and three days of onshore slop this week-there is one bonus and that is the banks on the higher tides are pretty damn good and on the low tide-rubbish,with lots of rip scallops on the beach and therefore lots of rip bowls.
Swellnet predicts this ENE swell and wind pattern will stick around all week with today pushing 4ft and Thursday the biggest of it- a relatively stationary synoptic pattern just sitting off New Zealand spinning away.
Nearly two months out from the 2017 ISA World Surfing Games in Biarritz, France, the International Surfing Association (ISA) and French Surfing Federation have announced that Tom Curren will be an Honorary Patron of this historic edition of the event.
Curren, a legendary surfer from California who spent many years living in Biarritz, will be present to watch the world's best National Surfing Teams unite in competition from May 20-28 at Grande Plage, the same beach where Curren was crowned the first ISA Junior World Champion in 1980.
Curren stands alone in ISA history as the only athlete to be crowned World Champion in the Junior (18 and under), Open, and Master (35 and up) competitions. He took Gold at the first ISA Junior World Championship in France in 1980, the ISA World Surfing Championships in Australia in 1982 and the ISA World Masters Surfing Championship in El Salvador in 2011.
The 2017 ISA World Surfing Games will allow Tom Curren and Surfing fans around the world to lay eyes on the potential future stars of Olympic Surfing that will strive to represent their countries at Tokyo 2020.