For these young locals, the beach and bays are their backyards
Kai Davis grew up around the water.
The daughter of Galveston Island Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis, Kai has grown up with the beach right outside the door of her family’s West End home, where the Gulf of Mexico is just steps away.
“Obviously, since I live right there, I’ve always just been in the water,” Davis said. “I feel really comfortable with it.”
Kai has become comfortable with ocean swimming, which is unlike pool swimming and can be dangerous to those who aren’t accustomed to it. Sometimes, she doesn’t realize how comfortable until she swims with her friends, she said.
“There’s been a couple of times when I’ve had to help them get out, like they’ve gotten stuck in a rip current,” Davis said.
Peter Davis loves watching his daughter grow up by the water, he said.
“It’s one of the coolest things in my life to see her, as an eighth-generation Galvestonian, take to the beach at such a young age,” Davis said.
Peter grew up around the water and has a long family history in Galveston, he said. Then, as his daughter grew up, the Gulf became her backyard, he said.
“I started pushing her into waves when she was 2,” Davis said. “She was really little. Before she could really walk, she had ridden a wave on a board with me.”
Even now that the Ball High School student is busy with studies and other obligations, Kai, 15, still enjoys the relaxation of being in the water, she said.
“I think it’s just a change of pace,” Davis said. “I get stressed out pretty easily. It’s a nice way to relieve stress and clear my head. It’s super pretty out. A lot of the times, I like to swim as the sun is setting.”
Growing up on the Gulf, Manik Cerdas has been surfing since he was 3 years old, he said.
“I like whenever I’m on the board and then I just hop onto a wave and then I’m just standing up,” Manik, 10, said. “It always feels like I’m a pro.”
Manik also enjoys sailing, especially when he gets to steer the sailboat, he said.
“It always feels like I’m the captain,” he said.
Manik comes by his love of water sports naturally.
He surfs and sails with his father, Joe Cerdas, who is well known for excelling in a variety of water sports, including surfing, paddle boarding, swimming and hydrofoiling.
A hydrofoil board is outfitted with a winged fin that pushes the board up out of the water.
“As you’re dropping into the wave, you’re creating that speed,” he said. “Once that speed is enough, that foil will engage. It’s just like lifting off an airplane.”
Joe likes to participate in a variety of water sports because the skills in the different sports complement each other, he said.
He previously competitively raced stand-up paddle boards.
Manik got involved in water sports because his father would take him and his siblings out sailing, he said.
“We wouldn’t want to go at first,” Manik said. “We’d want to stay home and play video games. Once you’re out there, you’re like, this is awesome.”
Joe is doing the same thing with his younger son, Kaban, 9.
Joe also is trying to teach his sons some water safety, he said.
“That’s what I feel like my job is now, to respect the water and let them know how dangerous it is,” Joe said.
For Manik, the water is fun and peaceful, he said.
“It’s always fun when I’m swimming in the ocean,” Manik said. “I’m always like, a wave’s about to crush me. Wahoo!”
For Peyton Collins, 10, the Gulf of Mexico provides a wealth of both learning opportunities and fun.
Collins, who lives in La Marque, enjoys both kayak fishing and boogie boarding with his father, he said.
Collins and his father, Tomas Kimble “T.K.” Mills II, usually kayak out to deeper water to fish and learn about different lures and bait.
“You get to learn about different species of fish and when you catch the fish, you eat it,” Collins said.
For Mills, fishing is a way to share the water with Collins and his other children, he said.
Mills surfs and used to race on stand-up paddle boards with his friend, Joe Cerdas.
“He’s just as much of a waterman as I am,” Mills said. “We thrive in the water.”
Born in Galveston, Mills has been involved in water sports since he was a child. The water was a kind of outlet for Mills growing up, he said.
“I don’t know,” Mills said. “I was just drawn to it.”
Collins doesn’t surf as much as his father, but he loves boogie boarding, which is a short board for riding the waves on the belly.
“You have to look for the good waves, when they’re about to form — that’s how you get the good waves,” Collins said. “You have to go at the right time of the waves.”
It’s relaxing out on the water, Collins said.
“One time, one of my cousins said a good place to relax from your little brother or little sister is the pool, the beach, whatever, something that requires water,” Collins said.
Madison Gaido, 12, has been going to the beach since she was an infant.
The native Galvestonian grew up tubing, swimming and jet skiing with her family in the Gulf of Mexico and area bays.
“I got involved in water sports at a very young age, since I grew up spending a lot of time at family bay homes,” Madison said. “I have spent a lot of time hanging out on the bay with my grandparents, aunt, uncle, parents and siblings.”
Growing up, Madison never was more than a few minutes from the beach or bay, which made it very convenient for her family to hop in the water, she said.
“I am drawn to the water because the beauty, sound, smell, salty taste and feel of the water is so calming,” she said. “There’s nothing like the feel of sand between your toes or hanging your feet off of a pier into the water below.”
Madison comes from a family of people who have enjoyed the water.
Her mother, Amanda Gaido, also grew up learning water sports.
“I remember my dad teaching me by getting in the water to push me up on the skis, while my mom drove the boat,” Madison said. “When I would fall, I had to throw my hands in the air to let them know I was OK.”
Like her daughter, Amanda grew up building sandcastles, jumping in waves and swimming in the surf, she said.
Now, one of Madison’s favorite water sports is jet skiing, which takes some special technical handling skills, she said.
Madison loves to feel the wind in her hair and the sea mist on her face, she said.
“I love jet skiing because you can leisurely putt around, go fast, make sharp turns, do doughnuts or jump boat wakes,” she said.
For Jaime Villamil, swimming in the Gulf is an opportunity not just for himself, but also for other people.
A rising Odyssey Academy 10th-grader, Villamil started swimming when he joined beach patrol’s junior life guard program.
Through the program, Villamil has learned to swim in the Gulf and got the chance to paddle board as well.
It’s all fun for Villamil, but he also loves getting the chance to educate others about water safety, he said.
“People don’t know how to swim, or they get really anxious in the water and they’re nervous and have panic attacks,” Villamil said. “That was a reason why I took advantage of being able to swim. It’s just a great opportunity to save other people’s lives.”
The ocean can be scary, he said.
“I’ll touch a fish and I’ll freak out because of how slimy it is,” Villamil said.
Before learning to swim in the Gulf, Villamil hadn’t thought about things like paying attention to ocean currents or staying away from the jetties, which can be dangerous, he said. But he wants to help people learn about those factors, he said.
“I just want to make sure people feel safe swimming in the ocean,” Villamil said.