A large set wave, further down the line from the regular take-off spot. Connor is in the right place, and paddles hard. It ends up being a late take-off and O’Leary air-drops down the face, traveling at the same speed as the lip, arriving at the same time.

The split second he touches the water, his rail is knifing through water, and he is heading straight back up from whence he came without looking. He hits the crumbling lip with ferocity, completely vert, completely upside down. The commentators make a point about how critical the sequence is. The judges take note. He drops down again, still in the pocket, still alongside the lip. A searing bottom turn sees the goofy-footer heading back up, with his back to the wave, leering over his right shoulder. The wave is starting to close-out, and he knows he needs a big score. He hits the lip again. Harder than the first, more vertical . more critical. Even more upside down. it’s too hard. He’s pushed it too much in the quest for a power turn to impress, to finish.

Unbelievably he corrects, and the wave nudges his board back underneath him, allowing him to land, wobble for a second as he hits the flats, and then settle. The crowd roars. Big right, some savage but quick backhand hits. A score of 9.2. The same stuff he had been doing all week, en route to the final. Impressive? Oh yes.

Championship Tour in his destiny? For sure.

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Connor with one of his trademark upside-down snaps. Photo Swilly

What did the do for him? It shot him to number 2 on the WQS rankings, and with fewer 10,000 events (the ones with maximum points and prize money) in the system this year it sure bodes well for his qualification prospects.

With the lack of QS 10,000 events, it means that a win becomes that much more valuable. There are not many opportunities out there to secure those 10,000 points, so when it happens it is bank. Connor O’Leary is in a very healthy position at this stage to get into the top 10 on the QS without the requalifiers.

This year we have the Ballito Pro presented by Billabong, the Vans US Open Of Surfing next, the Cascais Billabong Pro, Portugal, the Hawaiian Pro and the Van World Cup as confirmed events, with the SP 10,000 in Maresias, Brazil still marked as tentative. That’s only 5 confirmed 10,000’s, with an even chance that the Brazil event might not happen. Their economy is in free fall at the moment, and things are far from rosy.

One big QS 10,000 and a few backups and you should be in with a good chance to qualify next year. Two big results in 2 QS 10,000’s and you’re a dead cert. O’Leary is bound to have a few more big results this year with the sort of surfing he is pulling off right now. Hard work pays off. In last year’s final WQS event at Sunset, Connor was only a couple of heats short of a WCT debut, but this year he is far better placed to reach pro surfing’s top tier.

According to the legendary Al Hunt, it might even be better than that.

“We lost two QS10,000 events, and one in Brazil the end of the year might not happen,” said Al. “So, with just five of them, and not too many QS6000 events either, The cut-off will be around 25% lower than previous years, which was around 20,000.”

Connor has 14,700 points. You do the maths.