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Swanson goes big on snow

Snowboarding

Costa Mesa snowboarder, competing in national championships, aspires to become pro, Olympian.

March 08, 2012|By Bruce Bourquin, Special to the Daily Pilot
(Kevin Chang / Daily…)

Sammy Swanson has goals that reach as high as the mountains he has shredded on his trusty snowboard, including one day becoming a Winter Olympian and X Games competitor.

So far, as he's proven himself as among the nation's elite in the sport, it appears he is on track toward possibly reaching those goals.

"I definitely have goals to get to the Olympics and the Winter X Games," Swanson said. "I want to get these smaller competitions done and get to the bigger ones later. It's hard now, because every kid sees what's possible, and then they're doing more difficult tricks."

The 13-year-old eighth-grader, who attends Costa Mesa Middle School, will compete in the 23rd annual United States Amateur Snowboarding Assn. National Championships April 2-4 at Copper Mountain, Colo. It will be his sixth Nationals competition. Last year, Swanson earned a $100 scholarship awarded by the USASA.

Swanson is one of the only snowboarders from Southern California — and among two Orange County natives — who is competing at the national level.

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"It makes me unique because I'm one of the only ones from Orange County at the national level," Swanson said. "Everyone here [in Orange County] does surfing, football, soccer, baseball. Some go snowboarding for fun. I try to do competitions. I think it's really cool, it shows you're up to par with the best in the nation."

The 5-foot-5 snowboarder has certainly been up in rarefied air among his fellow elite riders. Two years ago, Swanson qualified again for Nationals. But two weeks before the competition, he broke his collarbone. But he later returned. Last year, as a 12-year-old at the national level, Swanson's best finish was sixth in the slopestyle event, in which judges look at how difficult snowboarders perform their jumps, how they spin and how they land their jumps. Competitors can perform three jumps of nearly 45 to 55 feet, plus there are five long rails they must ride their snowboard across.

And again, he has proven himself this year. Swanson is ranked No. 40 in this year's slopestyle rankings, with 2,910 points, out of 290 overall competitors.

In the half-pipe at last year's Nationals, he finished 11th out of 67 12- and-13-year-old competitors, scoring 1,305 points. Chandler Hunt finished 24th, making them the only two Californians in the top 30.

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