MAN ON FIRE

HOW BOBBY MARTINEZ QUIT THE WORLD TOUR TO RE­CON­NECT WITH HIS LOVE FOR SURF­ING

Surfing World - - Introduction - In­ter­view by Sean Do­herty Pho­tog­ra­phy by Seth de Roulet

What’s Bobby Martinez been up to since he quit pro surf­ing with one of the most spec­tac­u­lar sprays in the sport’s short his­tory? Get­tin’ pit­ted off his dome for one thing.

MAN ON FIRE

Five years af­ter fa­mously quit­ting “this wannabe fuck­ing ten­nis tour,” giv­ing it a free char­ac­ter as­sess­ment as he walked off the beach in New York, Bobby Martinez, every­one’s favourite Mex­i­canAmer­i­can surf­ing anti-hero to­day lives qui­etly at home in Santa Bar­bara, Cal­i­for­nia. He surfs when it’s good, hits bags in the gym when it ain’t, hangs with his fam­ily and com­pletely ig­nores the pro surf­ing life that drove him loco for all those years. When Bobby said he wasn’t com­ing back he meant it. Turn­ing down half a mil­lion dol­lars to just go surf­ing takes some balls, but Bobby is a man of his con­vic­tions. Be­lieve it.

So used to see­ing him on tour, on edge, wound tight, bristling at the brass, the guy sit­ting op­po­site me on a park bench in Cur­rumbin is al­most un­recog­nis­able. It’s Bobby all right, but it’s like he’s had the weight of the world re­moved from his shoul­ders. He’s never looked hap­pier. His wife, Cleo is Aus­tralian, and along with their daugh­ter the Martinez fam­ily spend three months ev­ery year on the Gold Coast, mak­ing him es­sen­tially Mex­i­can-amer­i­canAus­tralian th­ese days. Bobby keeps pretty un­der­ground while he’s here. He won’t surf Snapper. He did run into Mick Fan­ning at din­ner one night, ran into Dingo in the gym, had a surf with Bede the day be­fore, but largely Bobby’s time is fam­ily time. Talk­ing with him it’s clear he’s found space and he’s found peace… un­til, that is, some­one went and men­tioned Trump. SW: You were here in Aus­tralia for that big nor-east swell in June. You get a piece of it? BM: Yeah, I got some waves. I don’t even know how to read the charts here, so I was just go­ing off what peo­ple told me. Big swell and off­shore winds they told me. Peo­ple were, like, re­ally pumped up for it. Some peo­ple said it would be too big, but I didn’t have high hopes, I just took it as it came. I’m not from here, I don’t know any­thing. I was, just, let’s see what hap­pens when it comes.

I don’t think any­one who lives here re­ally knew ei­ther. The sys­tem was just too big and too close to the coast. That was a rare swell, huh? I was trip­ping when I saw what ac­tu­ally came. The first day or two I stayed up here on the Gold Coast. I re­mem­ber see­ing the big day out the front here and it was re­ally messy and wild, but there was a week of waves. That was a long run. Once it set­tled down, that’s when I drove down the coast.

Have you road tripped down that part of the coast much be­fore? No, I did it once years ago when I was 17. I drove from here to Sydney, but I haven’t been back down there since, so it was all new for me again. It’s amaz­ing coast down

there. Ev­ery­thing about it amazed me; the small towns, how quiet it was, I loved it bet­ter than any­thing I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced here in Aus­tralia. And the peo­ple were so cool and made it great. It was beau­ti­ful; empty beaches ev­ery­where, it was like what I en­vi­sion when I think of the coast south of Sydney, just lit­tle towns with no one around and beauty ev­ery­where.

And you found waves. I was with Asher [ Pacey] and he took me there. I had no idea where we even were. Asher had to send me a map. He was al­ready down there with his crew and I drove down real early, left the Gold Coast at maybe two in the morn­ing. I just drove in the dark and pulled up at first light. There was plenty of swell and it was empty. It was solid, re­ally good, and just a few of us out.

We haven’t seen you, well, pretty much any­where since New York, which was what, five years ago? What have you been up to?

Just fam­ily, liv­ing, surf­ing when the waves are good, but mainly a lot of fam­ily stuff.

I’ve got to say, you seem happy. I’m en­joy­ing my life way more than I ever have, that’s for sure. Yeah! No stress, not be­ing around bull­shit I don’t want to be around, just surf­ing be­cause I love it as op­posed to just surf­ing be­cause I have to. It’s dif­fer­ent now. It’s cool. I feel like a lit­tle kid again. I don’t surf as much, nowhere near it, and I’m not out there when it’s shitty, but when it’s good I’m out there all day. So it’s good. I’ve got a good bal­ance. I love it. We come back to Aus­tralia ev­ery year for a few months. That’s our thing. I just stay pretty un­der­ground when I’m here.

How’s the con­trast be­tween here and home? It’s def­i­nitely dif­fer­ent. They’re two dif­fer­ent places, al­though I try and get in a rou­tine here like I do at home. Surf if I’m mo­ti­vated, and if not, go to the gym and get my fix, and then it’s just fam­ily. But my fix is in the gym.

I’ve seen you dragged Dingo [ Dean Mor­ri­son] into the gym while you’ve been here, work­ing on his box­ing, block­ing punches with his nose. He told me he’s get­ting worse at box­ing but bet­ter at catch­ing them with his head. I was laugh­ing. But he’s been on it. There’s a gym at Cooly I’ve been go­ing to and just try­ing to find a rhythm here, but ev­ery­thing’s dif­fer­ent here to home.

In terms of what? The pace of life? The quiet places are sim­i­lar. If you go south of here you go into the coun­try, and if you drive south of Santa Bar­bara you go into coun­try so there are some places here that re­mind me of home, but home isn’t this great. Aus­tralia is the best coun­try I’ve ever been to for sure. The peo­ple are re­ally nice, I don’t feel like there’s so much seg­re­ga­tion here, racism and an all that shit that’s con­stantly go­ing on at home. It’s dif­fer­ent here and I feel that the peo­ple are will­ing to help you. I feel the peo­ple here are a lot kinder and more gen­uine. You run into peo­ple ev­ery­where, but day-to-day it feels dif­fer­ent. It’s a spe­cial place here.

You’ve been in Aus­tralia for three months and dur­ing those three months there’s been a lot of shit go­ing down at home in Amer­ica, with Trump and all. It’s hard to watch ev­ery­thing, even at home… This stuff is al­ways there, the racism and the cops and all that, but now it’s been brought to light be­cause every­one has a phone with a cam­era. That’s the only dif­fer­ence. Apart from that noth­ing has changed, which is a sad thing, but hope­fully there’s some change com­ing. The Trump thing, I don’t even know where to be­gin. I’ve never voted and I’ve never cared about it, but now I watch it and take an in­ter­est be­cause of Trump. Watch­ing it I was blown away by the whole sit­u­a­tion... the cop killings, the shit Don­ald Trump says.

It feels like the tem­per­a­ture is ris­ing and peo­ple get­ting steamed up. It does feel like we’re on the verge of some­thing. Peo­ple I talk to back home, I get the sense we’re on the verge of a civil war, the coun­try is just not get­ting along. From what I’ve heard it’s not look­ing very good and things haven’t got bet­ter since I’ve been here. Now you have peo­ple do­ing things to the cops and pay­back and where does that all stop? It’s crazy. I don’t know where it’s go­ing to end.

Oh well, if it all goes to shit you can just move to Cur­rumbin. If Trump wins I’m mov­ing here for sure! My wife and I have al­ready said that, if he wins we’re on the first plane back here.

Your in­ter­view in New York, that in­ter­view, the point where you walked away from both the tour and pro surf­ing en­tirely, is what peo­ple gen­er­ally re­mem­ber you by… not the wins in Tahiti or the ninja back­hand. Does that piss you off? It did in the be­gin­ning but it doesn’t now.

How do you feel about it to­day? I don’t even re­mem­ber what year that was, but it was a while ago, huh? To be hon­est, I don’t even re­ally think about it. It doesn’t even reg­is­ter.

But do you want to be re­mem­bered for more than just be­ing the guy who tore the ASP a new ass­hole? I don’t care what peo­ple think. If I cared I wouldn’t have done what I did. You’re not sup­posed to speak your mind on tour and you’re sup­posed to be a cer­tain way, and for me that hasn’t changed.

Did you grow up com­pet­i­tive? And if you didn’t, what led you to pro surf­ing then? I never ac­tu­ally have been com­pet­i­tive. I was just go­ing with it, be­cause I felt I al­ways needed to take that next step. My first few years I wasn’t tak­ing things se­ri­ous, I had a lot of out­side in­flu­ences other than surf­ing that dragged me away from it. When I got home and I was do­ing shit I shouldn’t have done, and if I was re­ally into pro surf­ing I wouldn’t have been do­ing that. I can look back and I know the rea­son why was that I just wasn’t into it. I was just go­ing along with it, be­cause that was the path, that’s what every­one wants you to do, that’s what the spon­sors want you to do, and that’s where your con­tracts lead… and I’m just not com­pet­i­tive. I can lose at ping-pong, I don’t care, but if it’s some­thing about fam­ily then it’s per­sonal and then it kicks in. You don’t fuck around with that,

Pre­vi­ous spread: The sweet­est am­ber. Op­po­site: You don’t win Mun­daka and Chopes with­out a first class tu­berid­ing game. While he’s crit­i­cal of his surf­ing, Bobby still threads with the best of them.

but with any­thing else I’m not com­pet­i­tive at all. It didn’t mean any­thing to me, not in the be­gin­ning, not at the end.

Did surf­ing heats suck the fun out of surf­ing? For me it did. I surfed in the be­gin­ning be­cause I loved it, then as time went on I surfed th­ese waves I didn’t want to surf and I tried to do three turns on those waves and for me that wasn’t fun. You know, I don’t even do that to­day. I don’t go out when it’s shitty. It just changed surf­ing for me, that’s what it did, and like you said it took the fun out of it. There were times when I en­joyed it, sure, when the waves were re­ally good and there’s one other guy out, but it’s still a tease be­cause you’ve only got half an hour of it and you’ve still got to surf within th­ese peo­ples guide­lines. So I don’t know, it was a Catch 22 for me, but I was en­joy­ing it less rather than more as time went on.

Did you look up to anti-hero guys when you were grow­ing up? I just watched their surf­ing, I didn’t delve into their per­son­al­i­ties. I judged them purely on how they surfed. They were the peo­ple I looked up to in surf­ing but now as I’ve grown, some­one like Chris­tian Fletcher is one of my favourites be­cause he’s one of a kind. Just the way he and Nathan Fletcher did their own thing. I didn’t see it like that as a kid though. I was young. I was all about surf­ing.

“IF TRUMP WINS WE’RE ON THE FIRST PLANE BACK TO AUS­TRALIA.”

What do you think peo­ple liked about you? Was it that you were the anti-hero to all the surf­ing heroes on tour? I hon­estly don’t know. I feel like I’m very re­spect­ful to every­one and I cer­tainly don’t think I’m too good to talk to any­body. It’s not my na­ture to be out­go­ing, but I’ve never been a dick to any­one un­less you’ve done some­thing to me. I’ve al­ways been good friends with a lot of the guys on the tour, I give it like I want it to be re­turned. I don’t lie and I don’t beat around the bush and that’s the way I’d pre­fer peo­ple be with me.

Your hon­esty was fa­mous, and in the end it cost you a ca­reer in surf­ing, but is it a case of that hon­esty mak­ing you a loser in the short term but a win­ner in the long game? You’re sit­ting here and you seem a fair bit hap­pier than you did on tour. A lit­tle too much hon­esty can bite you in the butt, but it de­pends how you want to live your life. Does money mean more to you than liv­ing the way you want? If it does, well bite your tongue and do what other peo­ple tell you. That’s not me. I’m not like that.

The guys on tour hold a deep re­spect for you, but you were the only guy call­ing stuff out about the tour, stuff that pri­vately most of the other guys also wanted changed. Did that cre­ate a ten­sion there? No, be­cause I make my own bed and I don’t need any­one… look, if I’m gonna get in a fight I don’t need 10 peo­ple with me. I didn’t do it for them; I did it be­cause I thought it was right. And that’s the way I am, I’m gonna say it like it is and I can’t speak for them and I don’t care if they came with me or not. You got to speak up or shit stays the same.

Af­ter New York and af­ter you walk­ing away from the tour was it nice to just be at home and de­com­press? It’s still nice. The tour wasn’t for me and it was nice be­ing home and a big re­lief. I still look back, I’ll see a re­cap of a con­test but that’s as far as I look back. Even now I look back and shake my head and go I can’t be­lieve I stuck that out for four or five years or what­ever it was. I ac­tu­ally pat my­self on the back for that. But yeah, I’m still en­joy­ing be­ing at home.

What’s a day at home look like for you now? I’ll have my daugh­ter early be­cause my wife goes to the gym, then I’ll go the gym, and then it’s my daugh­ter and my wife all day. Surf if the waves are good, but real­is­ti­cally I’m only surf­ing when the waves are re­ally good, and that’s about it. I live a pretty sim­ple life. That’s my life. Fam­ily… fam­ily is ev­ery­thing to me, so I pretty much don’t do any­thing else.

You’ve boxed for years; are box­ing and surf­ing com­pli­men­tary? Do you get some­thing out of one you don’t get out of the other? Oh yeah, you get hum­bled in box­ing. No one hum­bles you in surf­ing. You go into the gym and the only way you learn is to get beat up and it puts things into per­spec­tive.

I sup­pose it’s like surf­ing big waves and al­most drown­ing, then find­ing a new re­spect for the ocean.

Have you ever fought on a card? You know, my box­ing the last few years has slowed down. The gym I used to go to, the City has shut it down so I’m do­ing more ju­jitsu and wrestling th­ese days. I’m glad be­cause box­ing is a hard sport. It’s not good com­ing home with headaches, es­pe­cially when you’re not out to win a world ti­tle. At first I didn’t mind, but now I’m 34, I’m old, it’s time to hang ev­ery­thing up!

How has your surf­ing changed since you left the tour? It’s def­i­nitely not as good! I surfed yes­ter­day with Bede and he hadn’t been on a short­board for eight months and he was surf­ing so much bet­ter than me and I’m like, damn! I re­ally just don’t have it! He’s out there rip­ping and do­ing big airs and my tim­ing was off, man, my surf­ing is so much worse now! [ Laugh­ing] That’s the truth, it’s not where it was but I surf when I want now and I have fun all the time, as op­posed to back in the day.

You ever miss it? No. Never. I don’t miss it at all.

So no surf trips ei­ther? I haven’t been on an or­gan­ised surf trip since I left the tour. A fam­ily surf trip, sure, but noth­ing or­gan­ised. That trip down the coast with Asher was as close to a surf trip as I’ve been on.

So you’ve dis­con­nected fully from the grid? Com­pletely. It just doesn’t sound like fun to me. I’m not ly­ing, it just doesn’t.

Did hav­ing a grom­met have any­thing to do with that? Did it make you see the world dif­fer­ently? It made me view peo­ple dif­fer­ently, ap­pre­ci­ate the hu­man life, and all I now think about is the way my daugh­ter is go­ing to be treated and that makes me want to be a bet­ter per­son. Has that got some­thing to do with hav­ing a girl in­stead of a boy? Did hav­ing a daugh­ter mel­low you out at all? I guess you could say that, be­cause if I wasn’t emo­tion­ally en­gaged I wouldn’t look at peo­ple the way I do now and treat them with re­spect. I look at my daugh­ter and I don’t want to do any­thing but the right thing. Be­fore it wasn’t that I didn’t care, it was just that I didn’t think about it. I’ve learned a lot through my daugh­ter, just hav­ing her has di­rected my emo­tions… I don’t know if they’re emo­tions so much but it’s more a moral side, a right and wrong, and know­ing how I act makes a dif­fer­ence to my daugh­ter as she grows up. As times go on it’s what it’s done for me, chang­ing in that way, and I needed that change and she’s bring­ing me to it. My wife took me for who I was, and I wasn’t per­fect, but I would love my daugh­ter to think I’m per­fect.

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