Quincy Davis is on the fast track to surfing stardom and she recently took a big step into the upper echelon of her sport when she earned a spot on the U.S. under-18 girls surf team.
The 13-year-old from Montauk beat out more than 100 girls to earn one of the coveted six spots on the team after competing from August 19 to 24 at the USA Team Trials in Huntington Beach, California. Competitors needed a recommendation from either the National Scholastic Surfing Association or the Eastern Surfing Association just to compete at the trials—Davis got both.
The six girls will train from now until March 2009, when the International Surfing Association will host the World Junior Championships in Ecuador. Training will include a pair of trips to California as well as a journey to the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii. During that time, the coaches will choose four girls from the team who will compete in Ecuador.
Head coach Joey Buran equated making the national team to qualifying for the Olympics, and said that Surfing America, which is the national governing body for surfing in the United States, is recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Surfing is one of several sports that is trying to gain access to the Olympics.
The International Surfing Association, which is the governing body for the sport on the international level, puts on the World Junior Championships each year, and, according to Buran, it is by far the most anticipated event on the schedule.
“It’s the one that the surf industry is really interested in because historically, the top surfers in the ISA world juniors go on to become the top five on the pro tour,” he said.
Although she just turned 13, Davis is in many ways a seasoned pro when it comes to surf competition, having traveled the globe for competitions and training. She’s dropped into waves in Australia, the Maldives and Puerto Rico, among other places; has several sponsors including the popular surf apparel company, Volcom; and has been widely recognized as one of the future stars of the sport. Along with teammate Lakey Peterson, who is also 13, she is the youngest member of the under-18 team, having achieved the rare feat of advancing to the semifinals in the U.S. trials in three divisions—under 14, under 16 and under 18.
During the trials in Huntington Beach, Davis had to overcome the nerves associated with participating in her biggest competition to date, as well as the knowledge that she was fighting for position among girls who owned several years of experience over her. And she wasn’t the only one dealing with that apprehension. Her mother, Paulette Davis, said that despite watching her daughter compete in countless contests, she had a hard time staying calm this time around.
“It was the most stressful event that I’ve been to for her,” she said. “I knew how much she wanted it, so I was very stressed for her. But she surfed so well and really did her best. I’m really proud of her that she put it all out there.”
The younger Davis said that the competition became progressively more difficult as the days went by and cuts were made.
“When I first got there, I was really excited to surf,” she said. “But as it got harder, I got a little nervous. But I just surfed as hard as I could.”
Buran praised Davis for the mental toughness she displayed in competing in three different age groups, an effort that meant she was surfing three times the amount of heats as her peers and, in the case of her heats against older competitors, against surfers with more experience.
“What really impressed me most about Quincy was for her to surf so many heats every day over a five-day period,” he said. “It just showed good mental toughness and great consistency.”
Davis said that the ultimate reward of making the team made it all worthwhile.
“I’m glad to be on the team at a young age so I can train with them and get better,” she said. “All the other girls are really good too, so I think we’ll do really good.”
Davis and her teammates will be working with Buran, who will accompany the girls on the training trips. They’ll head to California at the end of September, will travel to Oahu in January and will be in California again in February before heading to Ecuador in March.
Paulette Davis acknowledged that it might be a long shot for her daughter to compete in Ecuador, but based on her performance this year, she would be poised to compete in the world championships in Australia in 2010.
Buran said that he would not be surprised if Davis was able to sneak in and steal one of the four spots from the older girls on the team, adding that her presence as well as that of Peterson during the training trips will certainly keep the rest of the team on its toes.
“Those girls are without a doubt, the best girls in the U.S. under 16,” he said, referring to Davis and Peterson. “It’s not even close.”
Buran said that Davis’s strengths are her ability to select the best waves as well as her consistency over the course of competitions that last for several days.
Buran added that even if Davis doesn’t make the final cut to compete in Ecuador, the experience of training with the team during the winter will be invaluable.
“This will be a great thing for her career,” he said. “She’s just a fantastic surfer and she’s so far ahead of the curve.”
Between the training trips and the regular slate of traveling that has become the norm for Davis, she’ll have quite a busy year. Davis and her mother typically spend winters in Rincon, Puerto Rico, where Davis hones her surfing skills but also completes her school work with the help of a teacher who travels to Rincon.
Davis and her mother return to Montauk in the spring, where they are reunited with her father, Paul Davis and brother, Tyler Davis, who will be the starting quarterback for the East Hampton football team this season. Davis also gets time to be a “normal” teenager, as she competes on the Montauk School softball team in the spring.
But if her recent success is any indication, “normal” might start to lose its meaning for Davis.
Buran is predicting great things for the teenager and so far, she’s more than lived up to expectations.
“It’s hard not to imagine Quincy being the queen of American junior surfing,” Buran said. “The sky’s the limit for her.”