SEQUIM — A good time for Melissa Davis and her daughter Gemma is to grab their surfboards, load up the van and head out to the coast to surf.
The mother-daughter duo not only share a passion and love for surfing, but also compete together in competitions up and down the West Coast.
Melissa is a Sequim resident and single mother of two children — Gemma, 16, and Zeke Davis, 10. She started surfing about three years ago.
Gemma followed in her footsteps shortly after, and Zeke recently started paddling out into the water by himself.
“My kids watched me do it,” Melissa said.
Melissa and Gemma say once they caught their first successful waves surfing several years ago, they were hooked on the sport.
“It’s totally addicting,” Melissa said.
“The joy of surfing and the reward is worth the challenge,” Gemma said.
Melissa describers herself as a progressive longboarder. Gemma is a shortboarder.
“I love shortboards,” Gemma said.
Traveling to surf competitions, camping out and getting into the water for a weekend has become a staple of Melissa and Gemma’s relationship.
Or, as Gemma says, “It’s like a girls’ weekend.”
“We get to road trip together, just me and Gemma,” Melissa said.
Gemma started competing in surf contests last year and placed first in the junior girls division at the Agate Beach Surf Classic in Newport, Ore., both in 2017 and 2018.
In 2018, with a lack of female participants in her age group at the Cape Kiwanda Longboard Classic in Pacific City, Ore., Gemma competed in the junior boys division. She blew away the competition — and the crowd — by placing in second against five boys.
“I’m not intimidated surfing with guys,” Gemma said.
Gemma takes after her mother’s competitive streak, as Melissa also earns top rankings in the women’s divisions, which include anywhere between 12-18 other surfers, she said.
Melissa placed third in women’s longboard at the 2017 PNW Cleanwater Classic in Westport and second place in the 2018 competition, second in women’s at the 2018 Agate Beach contest and at the 2017 Cape Kiwanda Longboard Classic.
It’s a special feeling seeing her mother out in the lineup of surfers during a competition, Gemma says, and not only does it inspire her but also makes her feel safer.
“It’s cool I can look up to her,” Gemma said. “It makes me proud to compete with my mom because she always seems to win something.”
Competitions are a good avenue for getting both Melissa and Gemma’s name out into the surfing world and also provide the two an opportunity to win good gear and sometimes money.
It costs an entry fee to surf in many of the competitions, Melissa said, but many of the competition proceeds go toward programs that benefit local youth and skate parks.
The two women say the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful surf destination but also includes a steep learning curve with many different kinds of surf breaks, swells and cold weather.
Rain or shine, sun or snow, Melissa and Gemma said they take advantage of every opportunity they can to get into the water and surf.
The duo say they’ve never surfed in a warm-weather area. They have a cold-weather strategy dialed in with the right gear — meaning a warm, thick wetsuit, gloves, booties, a hood — and preparation by bringing warm beverages and gallons of water with them during surf trips in the winter.
“It’s mentally and physically challenging surfing here,” Gemma said.
Some of Gemma’s favorite surfing spots include Hobuck Beach in Neah Bay and beaches at La Push, while Melissa says she loves surfing at Twin Rivers.
“It’s so beautiful surfing here,” Melissa said. “Going to the coast is a freeing feeling.”
Gemma has dreams of being a sponsored surfer by Lib Tech.
Melissa and Gemma say that the number of local female surfers is growing.
The two women say they are the only mother-daughter surfing duo that they know of who also compete in the area and are well-known among the Pacific Northwest surfing community.
She and her mother hope to inspire other women to get pick up a passion for surfing.
“It’s important for women to get out there,” Melissa said.
“And inspiring other girls,” Gemma added.
In the future, Melissa and Gemma want to continue competing and would like to travel to Tofino, Canada, where there is a lively surf culture and good waves for surfing, they said.
Erin Hawkins is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at [email protected].