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Thornton leaves calm exterior on the beach
On land, Trevor Thornton is a soft-spoken, easygoing 17-year-old. But once he is in the water, everything changes.
"He's probably one of the most mellow people on land you will ever meet, but when surfing a contest, he is like a tiger and really tries to control the heat," Thornton's father, Rich Thornton, said. "His whole demeanor changes to a very aggressive one."
Trevor Thornton positions himself among the other surfers to ensure that he gets the best waves in the heat. But just three years ago, his aggressiveness wasn't so successful; he was ranked 54th in the NSSA Southwest Conference for juniors.
"There's sometimes where I wanted to stop, but I wasn't serious," Thornton said. "I like competing and everyone likes winning. It feels good."
Thornton continued to work hard and practice often, all while he grew into his body, a huge advantage according to Ian Cairns, his Team USA coach.
"Sometimes big or tall lanky guys like Trevor have good leverage to high performance moves," Cairns said. "I think he has grown bigger, got more powerful; he's got really good arc in his turns."
Thornton has propelled himself to a No. 2 ranking in the Southwest Conference men's open division going into the final competition of the season: the NSSA Open Championships at Huntington Beach that are underway and conclude Tuesday. One reason behind his success can be summed up in his favorite part aspect of surfing.
"I like that you can't really perfect it ever," Thornton said. "It's something that you always need to work on and you can always get better."
And better he has gotten. Earlier in June, Trevor won the NSSA National Interscholastic Championship in the high school men's division at Salt Creek.
"It's been a long road and I think most of it has been built by him being willing to go train two nights a week and being willing to go work with a surf coach and practice every day and just work really hard," Richard Thornton said.
Besides physical improvements, Thornton is also growing as a surfer by working on his mental game. Cairns said he is working on confidence to not wipe out and with confidence will come the ability to land his "high-value moves."
"Trevor has high performance moves and he has big moves, and he has grown into his body," Cairns said. "The next step is to work on 100 percent landing of those major maneuvers and 100 percent completion of all really good waves he rides."
A year from his high school graduation, Thornton is willing to take the next step in hopes of becoming a professional surfer.
"That would be the goal, I want to go travel and try and do that and that would be my career choice if I could choose that," he said.
Even when discussing his dream career, Thornton keeps a calm to his voice and saves his excitement and energy for when he is in the water.
"Hopefully I can win this weekend too, that would pretty much be the overall goal, but I think it would be good even to make the final and just do my best," he said.