Bobby Martinez is all humility and gratitude.

Despite finishing fifth overall on the 2006 World Championship Tour, Bobby Martinez is all humility and gratitude.

In a world where virtually every superstar athlete comes complete with gaudy oversized house, fleet of pimpin’ black rides, ditzy trophy wife, and unchecked bowing at the altar of bling-bling, it’s refreshing to meet a guy like Bobby Martinez, who’s happier hanging with his homies than he is hobnobbing with celebrities. And after finishing fifth overall on the 2006 World Championship Tour, it’s even more refreshing to see his humility, his gratitude, the fact that he hasn’t for a second forgotten the Disposability Factor. Bobby is twenty-five years old, he bases himself in Santa Barbara, he has a couple of pit bulls, and he likes to put it on rail. This conversation took place over the phone, shortly after he’d won his first heat at the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast in Australia.

How’s it going over there?
Good, good. Some fun waves. A lot better than California.

So Bobby, you grew up in Santa Barbara, right? Like kind of away from the whole surf scene?
Yeah, no one in my family surfed. I was the only one who picked up surfing. My mum and my dad worked hard. It wasn’t the upper-class Santa Barbara upbringing, that’s for sure.

And wasn’t there, like, a lot of gang shit happening at the time?
Yeah, there was. It was really bad when I was young. So that was an everyday thing during school, after school, always just walking around the little neighbourhood I grew up in, it was always around. But I stayed away from that stuff.

How did you get into surfing?
My dad would take us to the beach and I’d mess around on a boogie board in the white water and then I asked for a surfboard for Christmas and he would always take me to the beach after school. I was always really athletic, though, I played soccer and basketball and stuff. I liked everything as a kid, and surfing was just another sport that I did and I just stuck with that longer than any other sport that I played.

At what point did you realise you could become a pro?
I never really thought of it like that. I didn’t know anybody when I was a growing up that was making a living out of it, ya know, I didn’t really know about that. I knew you travelled and stuff but I never really hit a point where it all came together. It was more just kind of one thing leading me into the next, and then the next thing I knew I was on the WQS [World Qualifying Series] circuit.

I remember seeing you in Santa Barbara a few years ago and you seemed to be kind of in a slump. You had all the potential but it didn’t seem like you were gelling in the contests. At what point did you start to do really well, at what point did it click for you?
I don’t know. I have no idea. I just kept doing that WQS stuff and never qualified and then it just sort of happened, I qualified and that was it. It just sort of happened.

Last year you kicked ass. That must’ve been a really good feeling. And it must’ve boosted the shit out of your confidence.
It was cool, it was great. But that was last year and things can change quick. I can’t bank off that. Everyone’s starting from scratch again so the confidence only goes so far, like you can go out in the next event and just get smoked. I like staying real humble ‘cause I know that at any time I could be humbled if I speak out loud, you know, go get comboed in a heat or something. I just do my own thing and try to stay humble to myself ‘cause everyone on the tour surfs well, so you can’t count anyone out.

Who are your heroes? What gets you inspired?
Definitely my family. And in surfing definitely Occy [Mark Occhilupo] for sure, Occy’s my favourite. And Kelly’s surfing, too.

What about outside of surfing?
Just family and, umm, I do have some good friends who have been through some bad stuff and have turned their lives around and are now doing positive stuff and that’s pretty inspiring for me to know that, you know, just taking their lives from black to white, that’s pretty inspiring to me. And people like my family who work hard to make a living, and doing stuff they don’t enjoy to make a living, all that is pretty inspiring ‘cause people do what they gotta do to survive.

I appreciate that a lot. There are a lot unsung heroes out there.
Yeah, like my mom and dad don’t wanna get up and go work – they don’t even like their work, ya know? It’s inspiring that every morning they go and don’t just say, ‘Fuck this!’ It makes me think how good us surfers got it.

It’s easy to lose sight of that on tour. Between the contest pressure, the grind of non-stop travel, the time away from home – it’s easy to get beaten down by what’s ultimately a charmed life.
Yeah, definitely. Just look at the big picture. I mean, I know how it is to wanna do good and not quite get there, I’ve been there – I am there – but you gotta look at the big picture.

What about being Mexican. I was doing some commentating during the Globe WCT Fiji this last year and I remember during one of your heats we got just a flood of messages during the live webcast. Every other heat the messages would come in from the US, Hawaii, and Australia, and then during your heat we were getting them from Puerto Escondido, Mexico City, all over Mexico basically.
I love it, you know. I’ve got friends that don’t know nothing about surfing and because I surf they follow it every now and then. It’s cool to get the support from all my friends who I grew up with who are Mexicans and then other Mexicans around the world who support me and who got my back, ‘cause there aren’t too many of us surfing out there.

Do you feel like an outsider? Do you feel like your cultural heritage is totally different from the rest of the guys?
No, I fit in fine. That’s not really an issue. We all surf and obviously when we go home everyone’s life is different, but I pretty much get along with everyone.

Have you been reading any good books?
I’ve been reading Raging Bull, this book about Jake LaMotta, this boxer from New York. I don’t really get into, like, made-up stories, but I like good stories and this book is really good.

Do you do any training?
I mostly just box, you know. I never got into going to a gym or anything but I really like to box.

And I remember reading somewhere that you quit smoking weed. Can you tell us a little about that?
Yeah, umm, I stopped smoking three years ago. It was just kinda clouding things. And now I’m a lot clearer. I can focus a lot more.

And what about the rest of the year? How are you feeling about things?
I feel good, I feel positive, but you know how it is, you can only take one contest at a time.