“Surfing has the potential to inspire people to greatness in all aspects of their lives,” says Thomas Van Horn, president of Florida State’s Surf Club.
Thomas “grew up surfing along the beaches of Galveston and Surfside, Texas.” He and his buddies would often make the trip to South Padre Island, considered to be Texas’s premier surfing destination. It was his love of surfing—”harnessing the ocean at its most dynamic state is a feeling of pure ecstasy”—that awakened his desire “to understand the transfer of energy between the atmosphere and ocean.” That is, Meteorology.
Meteorology led him to Florida State. “A selling point for leaving Texas,” Thomas says, “was that FSU is home to one of the top Meteorology programs in the nation.” Since his arrival four years ago, Thomas has received experience through his classes and research assistantships.
And from his first week Thomas has been a part of the Surf Club, where the former president with his “stoke for life” gave Thomas a fresh perspective. When he himself became president two years ago, he “was inspired to serve with joy and enthusiasm.” Faced with the challenge of not being close to good surfing beaches here in Tallahassee, Thomas organizes surf trips down along the Florida coast. “One of our most memorable trips was when Hurricane Rita came barreling through the Gulf and sent us perfect six-to-eight foot surf!”
To determine where the waves will be, Thomas provides daily forecasts of surf conditions. During his sophomore year, he represented FSU in Project Swell, a nationwide surf-forecasting contest held mid-winter in New England. “Nearly 100 college students had to forecast which day would be ideal for the biggest and best-shaped waves. For three months we submitted daily forecasts containing wave height, wave conditions, and a weather synopsis.” Judged on the detailed accuracy to actual conditions, Thomas took first prize. Which included a part-time forecasting position with Surfline, the surfing-related website.
For Thomas, “the beauty and mystery of the ocean point to something greater than mankind—a reflection of our Creator.”