By Skip Brown
For most high school athletes, practice means a short walk to the track, field or gym. For Dominique Stater, it means boarding a plane to Florida.
The rising junior at Walt Whitman High School travels solo at least once a month to train at the Miami Yacht Club, where she’s the only female on the club’s nine-member windsurfing team. Windsurfing combines elements of sailing and surfing; athletes typically ride a 10-foot board with a sail powered by the wind. Dominique, who has also windsurfed in France, Canada and Poland, finished eighth overall at an international competition in Cagliari, Italy, in 2015.
“It taught me that all the training I did paid off,” Dominique says of the world championship regatta, which lasted about a week and included a dozen individual races. Mapping out the course ahead of time, Dominique sailed to the right side in one race while her competitors went left, allowing her to catch the best wind and finish first.
Dominique will travel to Texas this summer for the U.S. Youth Sailing Championship, and her performance there could help her qualify for the US Sailing Youth Worlds Team that competes in China in December. After that, she’ll be aiming for the 2018 Youth Olympics in Argentina, with a dream of making the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. “Dominique has very natural skills and broke through really fast on the international stage,” says Jerome Samson, president of US Windsurfing, a nonprofit organization that promotes the sport. “If Dominique continues to be committed to the path she’s on, the sky is the limit. The US Sailing Youth Worlds Team is the natural pathway to the Olympic team, and going to the games is definitely within her reach.”
Dominique Stater, who trains in Miami, began windsurfing four years ago. “I really like the speed,” she says. Courtesy photo.
Dominique began windsurfing about four years ago when she lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where her father, Tim Stater, worked for the U.S. State Department. Her family lived in Nicaragua, Peru, Chile and Colombia before moving to Bethesda in 2015. She’d tried kitesurfing at 13, but the jumps involved were too dangerous for her parents’ liking, so her mother, Jacqueline Peacock, recommended windsurfing. Jacqueline has windsurfed as a pastime, and she and Tim have competed in catamaran sailing races. After a few windsurfing lessons, their daughter was hooked. “I really like the speed,” Dominique says. “You get a lot of adrenaline going when there is a lot of wind—it feels like you are flying through the air.”
Dominique races in the Techno category, in which all competitors use the same size board and sail, typically competing for 45 minutes at a time. They follow a path that zigzags among buoys far from shore—often 30 minutes into the ocean by boat. She’s crashed and broken a sail, but she’s never been injured. “It can be really scary,” she says.
To stay in shape, Dominique does high-intensity interval training workouts at Orangetheory Fitness in Potomac. She plans to get another board to keep in Bethesda so she can windsurf on the Potomac River and maybe invite others, with hopes of the sport catching on in the D.C. area. “My friends here think it’s really cool and they all want to try it, but they say it’s hard,” Dominique says. After high school, she wants to attend the University of Miami so she’ll be a little closer to practice.