Published June 07. 2011 4:00AM Updated June 07. 2011 4:37AM
Dan Nickerson began learning how to sail as a baby.
His parents placed him into a car seat strapped to the boat. At 6 years old, he started lessons in Noank and at 9, he was racing.
On Wednesday Nickerson will graduate with his class from The Williams School in New London in a ceremony on the Connecticut College campus. Then he will spend the summer teaching others about the sport he loves.
"It's challenging because it's not like any other sport," said Nickerson, 18, who lives in Noank. "Other sports are more defined: Here's the field, the set boundaries and lines. But sailing, you're going to sail different places and depending on the day, it's going to be different."
This will be Nickerson's third summer teaching children and young adults how to sail in Stonington, at the SHYC Sailing Foundation, a nonprofit, community-based sailing and marine science program.
Teaching, he said, is rewarding because he sees his students progress and enjoy the sport.
"It's spreading sailing," he said, of his full-time summer job. "Some kids come in and they're like, 'I don't really want to go sailing today,' and you get them out on the water and they're having a good time. That's really meaningful to me."
Mistral Dodson, the foundation's sailing program director, said Nickerson is easygoing and fun but also very safety-conscious and serious about racing.
"He has worn off on the kids, teaching the younger race team," she said. "A lot of them want to be Dan when they grow older. He's so excited about sailing. He loves doing it and he wants to pass that on to the kids."
Nickerson said he has competed in top national events and placed second in the 2009 U.S. Laser junior singlehanded championship. He has also done well in his division in the state's high school championships and at the New England high school single-handed championship. He plans to compete this summer at the Laser North American Championships in New Jersey.
At The Williams School, Nickerson played soccer and varsity squash, took an introductory macroeconomics class at Connecticut College for college credit and served as a school ambassador. He is one of the school's cum laude inductees and received awards in math and physical sciences.
"Being an athlete, you have to be on top of your time management," Nickerson said. "And I feel like I'm a lot more organized even though there's a lot more going on."
He plans to study engineering at Tufts University in the fall and compete on the school's sailing team. Graduating from Williams is a "little bittersweet," he said.
"Williams has meant a lot to me," he said. "I'm a little sad to be leaving but I'm looking forward to college."