10 Things You Didn’t Know About Daisy Valdez
Written by Camille Pilar
I first met Daisy at the airport in 2013. We were on the same flight to Lanuza in Surigao del Sur and we made plans of sharing a van once we landed. I was starstruck and intimidated by Daisy, the known longboard and shortboard champion, and being the newbie surfer I was then, I tried to hide it. But an hour later, I felt at ease around her and we landed in Lanuza as friends.
After that trip, I spent many Christmas dinners at Daisy’s house, which was right in front of The Point, where she first learned how to surf. When I moved to La Union in 2014, Daisy was one of the people who made me feel welcome. We’d have all-girl nights over wine and laughter. We’d exchange clothes and bikinis. She’d guide me in the lineup and tell me what I can do to surf better. We’ve shared many meaningful moments together but it wasn’t until this interview that I understood the extent of her strength and passion.
Here are things you probably didn’t know about La Union’s petite powerhouse.
1.) Before Daisy was a surfer, she was a gymnast.
Daisy first discovered her athletic abilities when her 3rd-grade teacher asked her to join the Urbiztondo Elementary School gymnastics team. Daisy was small, lithe, and disciplined. Her natural talent combined with daily practice made her unstoppable on the balance beam. On her first ever national competition held in Bacolod, she took home the bronze medal. For 8 years, Daisy continued to carry La Union’s name in the competitive gymnastics scene until she graduated from the La Union National High School (LUNHS).
2.) Daisy taught herself how to surf.
Daisy was raised in front of a surf break but she didn’t always know that the waves in front of her house were surfable. As a kid, she thought big waves were dangerous as they signaled storms and destruction. But when the foreign surfers came and taught the local boys how to ride waves, Daisy was intrigued. When her older brother was done surfing, she would take his shortboard and paddle out into the breaking waves.
Nobody taught Daisy how to paddle, pop-up, take off, and trim. She watched how others did it, and through pure instinct, she was able to copy what she saw. She was only 9 years old when she taught herself how to ride and read waves with the same confidence and ease that she carries to this day.
3.) Daisy was asked to leave the lineup a lot.
Not too many girls tried surfing at that time because it was still seen as scary and it was a “guy thing” then. When Daisy’s brothers would see her in the water, they asked her to leave. Little did they know, she paddled toward the inside section instead. Unbeknownst to the boys, she practiced catching steeper and faster waves there.
Daisy was determined to surf because she truly fell in love with it. Her persistence inspired other girls to surf and she remains to be a role model to many aspiring wahines today.
4.) Daisy was inspired by Poks Esquivel.
Daisy’s background in gymnastics helped her overcome her initial fear of the waves. She thought to herself: this was just like a balance beam. But it wasn’t that simple—in surfing, you had to move with the water. Despite the daunting task at hand, Daisy was inspired by no less than the legendary Poks Esquivel himself. If Poks’ disability didn’t stop him from surfing in that level, she had no excuse not to keep trying.
Many of today’s surfers did not even get to meet Poks. But through heartfelt stories, pictures, and videos uploaded by friends and family, Poks lives on. As the locals say, Poks Forever.
5.) Daisy beat the boys in her first ever surf contest.
It was a mixed comp held at German Sunset and the first prize was a high-performance shortboard. Daisy, who was 11 years old then, had been using a 6’4” classic surfboard that was gifted to her by a Australian named Scott. After advancing several heats, Daisy couldn’t believe she was in the finals with some of the best surfers at that time—all of whom were boys. Her natural instinct for wave reading and properly timed trimming launched her to a first-place finish and she went home with the high-performance shortboard that all the boys were eyeing. Not bad for her first comp.
6.) Daisy is a Papa’s girl.
Daisy tells me that she was always a Papa’s girl and I felt the pride and longing in her voice. She continued to tell me about how her father would work late nights and come home looking pale. Nothing prepared her for his death in 1998. Daisy was only 11 then. As hurt and angry as she was for every day that she could no longer be with her father, she surfed her heart out to keep the pain at bay.
7.) Daisy doesn’t get nervous before a competition.
The years that Daisy put into her surfing trained not only her body but also her mind. Surfing isn’t just about what you can physically accomplish on a wave; it is also the control you have over your thoughts. This zen-like focus has helped Daisy surmount different struggles in life. When asked what she thinks about right before a heat, she answered with an unbreakable calmness: “I think that I’m just freesurfing. If I just focus on my waves and enjoy it, I’ll be okay.”
And Daisy always does more than okay. In 2007, she swept all of the national surf competitions she joined and took home the gold in both shortboard and longboard divisions.
8.) La Union’s power couple is now a decade strong.
Daisy met her match in Jefferson Dela Torre, a Baler local, in 2006. They would see each other during surf competitions and found that they had more in common than winning surf contests. Jeff then moved to La Union in 2008 and the power couple put up DJ Surf School where they offered surf lessons to beginners and intermediate surfers. They also offered one-on-one coaching for surfers who were serious about their progress.
In 2010, Kaila Jane was born. Today, she is a curly-haired and quick-witted 7-year-old who takes after her parents’ zest for life by the ocean. Naturally, she already knows how to surf.
9.) Daisy’s favorite part of motherhood is cooking.
When she isn’t surfing, Daisy looks after her children, Ton-Ton, 11, and Kaila, 7. Both kids are bright and sweet. One of Daisy's favorite things about being a mom is when she prepares food for her kids. She likes to feed them well as an expression of her love. And of course, there is the unlimited supply of hugs at the start and end of every day.
10.) Daisy has a wish for the future of La Union.
We talked about how business was booming in her hometown and I asked her how she felt about that. She paused to gather her thoughts and I caught a glimpse of her surfer zen. Daisy says life was simpler before all the developments came but it was also harder to make a living. She knows about the double-edged nature of development. While money created jobs, she also hopes that investors would care more for the environment.
“I want my kids to be able to keep surfing in this beach,” Daisy says. “I wish developments would include the local community in their long-term plans.”
And La Union has a long way to go.
Daisy is on her way to Japan to compete in the 2017 REnextop Asian Surfing Tour where she will represent the country in both longboard and shortboard divisions. Her next stops will be in Taiwan and China.
San Juan’s homegrown champ has a good chance of bringing home the tour trophy. To support her endeavors, Daisy launched a fundraising campaign with the help of local establishments and a network of friends who believe in her talent. She hopes for a unified surfing program to come out of her experiences so when the next generation is ready to compete, they’ll have a solid backbone to support them.