She jets around the world with Olympic medalists, is gunning for her own chance at a medal in 2012 and she’ll even put you in touch with her publicist. It’s heady stuff for a high-schooler, but Solvig Sayre of Vineyard Haven remains grounded, having to balance the grueling demands placed on an athletic and academic all-star. While many of her classmates bravely fend off acute bouts of senioritis, Ms. Sayre has been windsurfing her way to the top of the national ranks, all while staying on the honor roll.
“The first semester ended the last day of racing at the Miami Rolex OCRs, so right now I’m in the middle of catching up with midterms and the week before, which I had missed,” she says, “so I haven’t gotten the chance to slack off just yet.”
Ms. Sayre is just returning from a highly successful month in Florida, where she enjoyed competing in the RS:X North American Championships and the Miami Rolex Olympic Classes Regatta (OCR). In the North American Championships she came in fifth place, and in the OCR she placed 23rd overall and second among Americans.
In doing so, she solidified her status as the number two ranked woman in the U.S. in Olympic windsurfing and was renamed to the U.S. Sailing Team AlphaGraphics.
“They cut places this year, so I had to fight harder for my spot,” she says.
Ms. Sayre particularly enjoyed racing in the North American Championships as she got to race off the same starting line as the men. Although she doesn’t know how many men she beat, as they were scored separately, she is confident it was at least a few. “Every race I beat at least one man,” she says. “It was great getting a chance to test our skills against them, because we never get to.”
Besides Miami, windsurfing has carried Ms. Sayre as far afield as Brazil, Oregon, England and San Francisco — and that is only in the past year.
“Brazil was incredible,” she says. “We went into Rio and stayed across the street from the Copacobana Beach.”
Perhaps a finer pedigree could not be imagined for a windsurfer as Solvig’s parents: her mother, Stina, was a Swedish windsurfing champion and her father, Nevin, was a five-time American national champion. Windsurfing has evolved a long way, though, since the days when Solvig’s parents ruled the waves.
“When they were professional windsurfers, people didn’t think you could do a forward loop,” she says referring to a dazzling freestyle maneuver in which the windsurfer floats in the air for a moment like a leaf before jerking the sail underneath them in a cartwheel. “Now guys are trying triple forward loops. It’s just mind-boggling what you can do.”
When out on her board Ms. Sayre enjoys the company of other windsurfers, which is why her favorite place on the Island to sail is State Beach, where it’s usually quite windy and the windsurfers come out in droves.
“Now that Katama’s cut and it’s filled in with a lot of the sand, State Beach is probably the best place. That’s where everyone goes. When I go there I sail short boards, so it’s fun if it’s wavy or flat, just as long as there’s a lot of wind.”
Off-Island her favorite spots are the legendary Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, where she competed last year, and her personal windsurfing Xanadu, Cape Hatteras, N.C.
“On the Outer Banks, there’s a spot where a bunch of people go to windsurf and it’s always windy,” she says. “There are generally not less than 20 people in the water and in the U.S. that’s pretty hard to come by, so that’s always really exciting.”
A chance to compete in the Olympics is what motivates Solvig everyday she gets out on the water, and especially during competition.
“I’m racing against people that have won Olympic medals and have gone to the Olympics several times,” she says. “It’s definitely something I think about.”
Balancing schoolwork and windsurfing is stressful enough without the additional well-documented stresses on the American teenager of college decision-making. Right now Solvig plans on attending school in the fall, despite her grueling schedule, although that could change. She has applied to schools in Maryland and Florida that meet her exacting standards.
“I have two criteria,” she says, “that they have a good international relations program, hopefully with some Middle Eastern studies, and that they are on the water and windsurfing is very accessible.”
In the coming months, her rigorous training schedule does not let up. Later this month she heads back to Florida to compete in two events and train with Carolina Borges, a windsurfing pro who represented Brazil at the Athens Olympics, and then in the coming months it’s on to Germany, Poland and beyond for an endless itinerary of training and competition.
“I’m really racking up the miles,” she says with a laugh.