Children of snow, wind and water

Nate Peterson
Aspen locals Nique Vetromile and Alex Smith competed last month at the U.S. National Windsurfing Championships in Maui. Vetromile, 14, won the overall title in the junior women 13-and-under division while Smith finished third overall in the junior men's 14-18 division. (Mark Fox/The Aspen TImes)

There is a windsurfing national champion walking the halls at Aspen High School.Of course, now that Nique Vetromile is back in Aspen after spending another summer in Maui, she’s already looking ahead to the winter, to hockey, to skiing.It’s always been this way for Vetromile, the daughter of two ski instructors, who was born in Hawaii and has spent every winter chasing powder in the Colorado mountains.Every fall, Vetromile finds herself adjusting to the crisp mountain air after leaving Maui’s warm beaches and heading back to Aspen for the school year.”You forget and walk outside in your tank top, and it’s too cool. You realized you’ve got to wear your sweatshirt,” said Vetromile, whose name (pronounced “Nicky”) is short for Dominique.

Alex Smith, a friend and classmate of Vetromile, can relate. He’s the third-best male windsurfer in the United States younger than 18. Although, at the moment, Smith’s thoughts are with tennis, not sea breezes and sailing angles. As a member of the Skiers tennis team, the sophomore is back into the swing of the fall sports season, thousands of miles away from his summer home and his favorite summer sport.Bring up windsurfing with both high schoolers, however, and their thoughts quickly shift back to last month’s national championships on Maui’s coast.The five-day event (Aug. 7-11) hosted 85 competitors of all different ages from 15 countries. When it was all said and done, both locals had sailed some 150 miles.Vetromile was first in the three competitive disciplines – slalom, course racing and long-distance racing – to earn the overall championship in her age division (junior women 13 and younger) ahead of two other girls. Vetromile had her 14th birthday in the middle of the competition, which allowed her to race in the younger division. Smith finished third in his division (junior men 14-18), with the highlight being a third-place finish in course racing.

Slalom racing consists of heats, with each set of competitors racing around multiple buoys on a set course. Course racing also has heats, although competitors simply race upwind from the starting buoy to the finishing buoy, not having to navigate around any other buoys on course like in slalom racing. Smith compared course racing to sailboat racing, with competitors having to gauge the wind to find the fastest line to the finish.Distance racing is somwhat similar to course racing – a dash from one point to the next – although it is only one longSee Windsurfing on page A14 race, with windsurfers sailing 9 miles in one direction, then 9 miles back.

All three events require different skill sets, and combined, distinguish the best overall windsurfer – much like an overall title does in alpine skiing.Vetromile was modest, however, when asked about her accomplishment. She noted that Smith had a bigger (five boys to three girls) and much tougher field than hers, and that his accomplishment was just as impressive.Mark Boersma, of West Olive, Mich., was the overall champion in Smith’s division, dominating the competition by winning 13 of 14 slalom races, the long distance race and all six course races.Vetromile wasn’t as reserved when asked what her favorite sport is. Like Smith, she said it’s a toss-up between skiing and windsurfing. “It’s kind of hard because you can’t windsurf here, and you can’t ski there,” she said. “It’s definitely hard to choose if you like one better or not.”

“Its a perfect balance between the two,” Smith said. “I love both. You get to do one in the winter, the other during the summer.She said both sports require leg strength and balance, with there being more similarities between the two than differences.”There’s definitely a parallel,” she said. “They’re both edge sports. Even though windsurfing doesn’t seem like an edge sport, you definitely use your rails a lot to turn around.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is