WSL Rookie of the Year Connor O’Leary Vissla Sydney Surf Pro

WORLD surfing’s best rookie Connor O’Leary will use a new event in Sydney as a launch pad to a stellar second year on the world tour.

The Cronulla surfer returned to Australia from Hawaii yesterday with the mantle of WSL Rookie of the Year — an award two-time world champion John John Florence has won in the past — and the knowledge he is in the main draw for next year’s world tour.

His emergence comes at a crucial time for Australian surfing as veterans uch as Bede Durbidge and Josh Kerr — and potentially even three-time world champion Mick Fanning — head into professional retirement.

Australian surfer Connor O’Leary will look to go big in 2018.Source: AAP

“It was the best year ever and to have won the rookie of the year was such an honour knowing who has won it before and that you know you will only get one shot at it,” said O’Leary, at 24 the youngest of eight Australian surfers on next year’s tour.

The highlight of 2017 for O’Leary was making his first final in Fiji and finishing the year as the world’s 13th best surfer.

“My big goal for 2018 is to be in the top 10 at the end of next year,” he said. “It’s important because the Olympics are on my radar.”

Connor O’Leary is world surfing’s best rookie.Source: Supplied

O’Leary will use the new Vissla Sydney Surf Pro, a 6000-point qualifying series event unveiled at Manly yesterday, as a major part of his lead-in to the world tour opener on the Gold Coast.

Fellow tour surfers, including new qualifier Wade Carmichael, will also contest the event from February 24.

A Pro Junior event will also take place on February 24-25, 2018.