Strong as bear! More style than Hedi! An archival interview with Bob after his spectacular quit…
“No matter how big a splash you make in this world whether you’re Justin Bieber or a talking teddy bear, eventually, nobody gives a shit.”
Ted, Ted (2012)
DAY 1: Primo Boxing Club, eastside Santa Barbara, CA
On the corner of East Haley and North Quarantina, at the foot of the Mesa in Santa Babs, is a small not-for-profit gym with the words SAY YES TO KIDS! stencilled on the front wall. Inside we find three rooms. One, the office, features a rack with books on Surrealism, Edgar Degas and a tower of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard’s sci-fi novels. Another, has four punching bags suspended from the roof, and the third, we discover, is swallowed by a boxing ring. The walls are painted in red-white-and-blue stripes and an iPhone jammed into the beat box pounds, at least for the next three minutes, Wale’s Ambition.
The time is now, on everything
Took my heart away from money
I ain’t interested in fame
And I pray that never change
Ambition is priceless
And, there, look! It’s Bobby Martinez, 30 now, the best backsider on tour, who blew his surfing career up right before our eyes when he lit up on on the webcast at the 2011 Quiksilver Pro in New York. His beef was with the mid-year tour cutoff even though it didn’t matter shit to him ’cause he was quitting anyway. Like, didn’t he blow off South Africa and Tahiti, before taking out Slater with a wind-beneath-his-wings air in Brazil? But, the ASP beat him to the punch when it disqualified him from all events for 12 months. He ain’t surfed a heat in competition since. And, shit, he ain’t gonna.
But, that was then, and now, here, dressed in a black-and-white zip-up with LOVE written across the chest, from the company To Write Love On Her Arms, black track pants and new Everlast boots, Bobby works the ring. His back is wide and stretches the fleece into a flying vee. His head is shaved, though it isn’t clean, and…now…sit with me on one of the exercise bikes and, together, let’s feel the intensity as he bounces off the sprung floor, off the ropes
…huh…huh…huh…huh… jab…jab…jab…hook…hook…uppercut…pop, pop, pop.
Ain’t that something, readers?
The playlist slips into Whiz Khalifa’s, The Plane.
I don’t wanna leave, but I need to, it’s such a shame…
They gone miss this plane
They gone miss this plane
They gone miss this plaaane
They gone miss this plane
I try to believe you, I don’t wanna leave but I need to.
A digital work-out timer shrieks every 30 seconds. Some bags hang silent for 30, others keep working. Bobby works his three-shot, four-shot and six-shot combos.
If I was thinking I was going to swing into town to find a moribund Mr Martinez pouring concrete like his papa, his torso collapsed by beans and rice, well, shit, that ain’t the case. Bobby’s a fucking monster in the ring.
“He’s a natural athlete. When he wants to hurt you he can hurt you,” says Joe Pommier, the formerly national-ranked boxer who runs the joint. Joe is cut from boxer casting central. His appearance, despite elements of French and Indian, is all Mex. Shaved head. Goatee. Bent nose. He stands five-six max in his Ed Hardy slip-ons, black vee and long beige shorts. Cat is friendly, kinda funny too, but you know he could separate a man from consciousness with one of those impossibly fast jabs.
Joe says that Bobby, with just a little conditioning, could be a pro light-middleweight. “He’s 165-170 pounds (77 kilos) now. We’d get him down to 154 (69 kilos).”
The second half of Bobby’s 90-minute workout is with Joe in the ring.
“Seven and five,” Joe yells.
Bobby hits seven, ducks five.
He ain’t one for making too much noise but when Bobby pops an uppercut, his favourite punch, he makes a sound that ain’t a squeal, but kinda high-pitched and it contrasts with the bass thump on the pads.
Later, Bobby says that the uppercut, “comes from underneath so it’s a really hard punch. It fucken does a lot of damage. For people who do it right it’s a vicious shot. I love that punch.”
Bobby wraps up the work-out with a combo of yoga moves, downward dog, cobra, the triangle, followed by a series of bouncing hip-flexes and shoulder stretches.
When he goes out back and changes, he walks out wrapped in his Quiksilver New York 2011 towel. Well, isn’t that ironic!
The following conversation takes place at Bobby’s two-bedroom house on the upper Westside, one he shares with his Australian wife Cleo and dog Rio. It ain’t a palace, f’sure, the bank foreclosed on his prize crib, but it’s pretty, more clean than you could imagine and with a large Brazilian wood deck that looks over a well-tended lawn and hedges. After the gym, Bobby seems smaller, and I tell ’em what a monster he looked while he was in the ring, but how he seemed to shrink when he climbed out from behind the ropes, and he says, yeah, that’s what happens, the ring can make your appear, well, larger than life.
DR: Wanna climb back in time and tell me how you felt about the tour?
BOBBY: The tour, at first, was fun and fresh but I didn’t know anything about it. But, as I was there longer, I heard all this shit that was going on behind the scenes. Every surfer was complaining and no-one was happy. But, they wouldn’t say shit. It fucken got to me because I love surfing so much. I only did this and stuck with it because I loved it. And, I started forgetting about the love I had because so much shit was going on with it that it made me hate it. And, I knew then, that it was my time to hang it up and to quit because the one thing that I love was slowly being sucked out of me.
What kinda shit y’talking about?
BOBBY: The meetings and all the surfers complaining. All those meetings became places for all the WCT guys to bitch and complain about shit they’re not going to fucking basically get but they want to bitch and complain and sit in these meetings and act like they’re going to do something. And, they never put their foot down. From scaffolding setups to little things like fucking to who’s going to be in the Pipe Masters to surfers wanting more money. Endless amounts of shit. And, it was like a bitchfest for all the WCT guys. I stopped going to these meetings because nothing was happening. I didn’t want to hear a bunch of guys gossip about shit that… fucking… they’re not happy with it. Like, what’s with the WPS (the surfers’ union, World Professional Surfers)? In my time, nothing happened and it was bullshit. It was fake. I was thinking, why are we coming to these meetings? And, we pay (italics) into the WPS? It fucking ate me alive. I just wanted to go surfing and be alone. Not, fucking, hear all this bullshit.
Another complaint of yours has been the judging. But, the judges did respond to your surfing. What, four event wins?
BOBBY: I know I wasn’t the best but I could beat the best. But, I mean, fuck, was I the most exciting surfer? No. Was I kinda boring at times? Yeah. I was just trying my best and trying to fit into the standards, to make it through another heat. I’m happy where I came in, I came in good, and I feel like I went out with a bang because I spoke from my heart. And, I’m happy with my time there. I look back now and I see the contests and I…
(Bobby’s voice slips to a whisper)
… I could never fucking be there. I looked at guys who were there longer than me and go, how the fuck are they doing this? How are they still there?
Were you happy after you blew up on the mic about the mid-tour cutoff in New York?
BOBBY: I felt relieved and happy. I wanted to be heard because, I felt like, not for myself, because I was done with that shit, but as far as the kids coming up, I felt like they deserved a fair shot. And, I felt like these surfers who put that role into effect were taking the fairness out of the game for these kids. Some spend years on the QS and they want to dream and they deserve the dream of being there for a year. So I spoke from the heart and told it like it is. And, there were a lot of surfers on the tour who agreed with me completely but there’s only one who said it. I was, like, fuck this bullshit, I need to speak from the heart. And, that’s what I did. I felt like it was a weight off my chest. I could breathe! I’m not living in this bullshit world no more and I’m out with a bang, like, fuck you guys!
Don’t that sound kinda fierce? Sit next to me on the outdoor chair here and Bobby’s face is cut into a ear-to-ear smile. A fucking jack o lantern! He loves this shit. Y’remember straight after New York how he dived headfirst into the twitter sphere? How all his tweets were in CAPITALS! Ol Bobby806 spat out tweets like:
PAUL FISCHER U HAVE LICKED ENOUGH BAG AT REEF AND SURFER! HOW U THINK U GOT A FUKEN COVE U FUKEN GROUPIE! HAHAHAHA
MAYBE IF ID KISS PEOPLES ASS LIKE FISCHER ID GET A COVER HERE ON A AMERICAN SURF MAG! NOW GO PRETEND UR A DG!
I LUVE THE WORLD AND AI HAD A GREAT DAY YESTERDAY!
MY WIFE AND EVERYONE ELSE THINKS IM LOOSING MY MIND BUT I FEEL GREATTTTTT!!!!!!! NEVER BEEN BETTER!!!!!!
ASP! DAM U GUYS FUKED UP AGAIN! HAHAHAHAHA ASP IS A FUKEN JOKE! HAHAHAHAHA DREAM TOUR! CAN WE FINE THE ASP FOR BEING FUCK UPS! HAHAHA!!!!!
But, apart from a couple, Bobby says they were just his stupid bad ass humour. “People who didn’t know me were saying I was losing my mind. Fuck! I was just having fun!”
What’d y’do after you bit off the mic?
BOBBY: I just went to change, got my shit, left the contest site, did a little interview with Surfline, got my shit because I thought I had to surf again and then I went back to the hotel and kinda kicked back. My wife was tripping. She was blown away but… I just played it like another day. I didn’t think nothing of it. It was time to speak up and I did.
Were you surprise by the blunt force applied by the ASP, disqualifying you from the event?
BOBBY: Yeah, I was. Fuck. I can’t talk shit about ’em but Jeremy Flores can get in a fucking fight and punch somebody before a Quiksivler event. I didn’t physically hurt no one. I’m not saying he hurt no one, that one punch didn’t look like it did nothing, but fucking he threw it. It was a physical confrontation. I didn’t do that. I was verbally speaking my mind, so compared to the situation, yeah, I think they did me dirty, I think they did me wrong. I thought I woulda got a big fine but they kicked me out and didn’t pay my money for winning the heat.
Who told you?
BOBBY: Renato Hickel (ASP WCT manager). He called me and told me. I knew something was coming but he said something like, I know you probably know something’s coming and, you know, we can’t let you compete… everyone voted. And then, a security guard, Woody, came to my room to check my temperature to see if I was pissed ’cause I told him I was going to surf anyway. Fuck that, I was just fucking with him. I didn’t give a shit at that point. I just wanted them to think like I was pissed. So Woody came up and goes, “Are you okay? You’re not going to do nothing? You know, uh, because someone told me…” I was like, I’m not that type. But life goes on. Life ain’t the tour.
Theoretically, if you hadn’t been disqualified and you’d one well in the event, maybe even won, would you have gone to the next event?
BOBBY: No. I was just planning on doing the ones in California. I was done with travelling. I was done with chasing the tour. That’s why I didn’t go, I didn’t go to Tahiti and I didn’t go to South Africa… I went to Brazil and in Brazil I found out that it was certain that the new tour was changing… I would just done Frisco and I woulda done Pipe. Oh, and, then, I mighta done Trestles. Maybe not. Because I fucking hate that place. I really like Frisco and I really like Hawaii but I hate Trestles.
In the build up to the interview, had you been thinking about it?
BOBBY: We were having a barbecue one day in Santa Barbara with a friend and Cleo and we were talking about the contests, all that stuff, and I told him, if I win a heat over there and I get a chance to speak, and this was a month before, I’m going to fucking tell it all. I’m going to fucking, I’m not going to say something nice. I’m going to tell ’em, fuck you guys. And, they’re, like, Nooo! You’re serious? And, then I won and I knew, this is my chance, right here. but, I knew I was going to say it. I just needed a win to voice it. And, when I won I was, like, fuck yeah, I’m saying this shit right now.
Were you thinking about it in the water?
BOBBY: I was thinking about my heat. I needed to win so I just thought about winning. Once I won, it came to me. This is my time right now.
Were you nervous?
BOBBY: Fuck no! I was pumped! I couldn’t wait! I was filled with adrenalin like I’d just won the contest. I was like, this is my fucking moment! I felt like I spoke on behalf of at least half of the surfers on the CT. I know it. I got a lot of good feedback and a lot of people told me they were pumped. And, I spoke for those people who wouldn’t speak up. I was the voice for those surfers.
You looked shot with adrenalin!
BOBBY: I was fucking pumped! This is what I wanted! This is what I wanted! I wanted the one-minute interview just to tell it like it is. This was part of the reason I came to New York, to say fuck you guys, later, fuck you all, and your dumb tour, I’m going out with a bang and I’m telling it like it really is. I couldn’t wait for that moment. Fuck yeah!
Imagine if Monster sponsored a tour event, dropped you on the card, and you won every heat, the contest, and after each heat y’lit up…
BOBBY: That would be BAD! I’d love that!
On the podium, you’re still going, talking shit!
BOBBY: (getting into the swing o things)… fuck, you give me my money, you gay ass tour! I would love that. I’d come up with something good to say. I wouldn’t say gay cause I don’t have a thing against gay people at all, but I… I… fuck… I would love that. That would be cool. That’s the only time I would do a contest, if my sponsor, said, be yourself, win and say what you want. If that ever happened, that’s the only way I would come back and do an event.
Do you miss the excitement of surfing heats? The pressure?
BOBBY: I miss having a goal to work towards. Freesurfing is just, I’ve never been a part of freesurfing. There’s no goal, it feels like you just go out there and someone takes a photo. I miss having something in life to chase. And, it doesn’t need to be surfing. It needs to be something. I surfed my whole life and I was working to get somewhere my whole life and and then when that’s done, now I’m like, what do I do with myself now? Like, where is there that chasing something to get a fulfilment? What do I do now?
DAY 2: Where Bobby takes the writer and the photographer for a tour of his old neighbourhood on the westside, and for a ride into the mountains, in his black Ford 150 pickup.
So, the way it works around here is this. Santa Babs is split into three parts: westside, eastside and the mesa. We drive slowly around town, Bobby ain’t one to work the horn or call poor drivers asshole, and we get the whole tour. We see the boy’s club where he grew up playing with his cuz’s and where now there’s a wall mural featuring Bobby in a tube underscored by a Mexican flag.
Bobby is third-generation American, even his grandparents were born in the USA, which kinda feels weird don’t it, the whole Mex thing when you don’t speak the language and haven’t had any real Mex blood for a hundred years. But, spend time here, or even in southern California, and the Mexican identify is powerful, an ethnic grouping that defines how they live, speak and work.
We roll past his second house, the duplex where his parent’s live. Bobby bought it 11 years ago for a song but it was “fucked up. All this shit is brand new.” He rents out the back unit to another family. We swing right and cruise by another of these plain, but pretty enough, wooden houses. “This shit is all nice but… got my first tattoo here… I was 15, this fucken gangster from the neighbourhood made a tattoo gun and he was at my tia’s (dad’s sister’s) house and gave us some tattoos.” Bobby chose the word “Martinez”.
“It’s the same place but it feels different nowadays. But, as cute as it looks, I would never want to live there… Shit still happens all the time. All the time. It doesn’t look like it no more but my friend got his throat cut on both sides, sliced his jugular both sides, put the knife in his mouth… here… (indicates the part of the mouth the blade went into) and then they beat the shit out of him and broke his jaw. He almost died. This was just recently.”
Now, it’s over to the Eastside, where his abuelita (grandma) still lives and where his papa was born. Across the road is the Pennywise market, the joint that used to be a big hangout for the gangs.
Now, Bobby says, suddenly animated, smiling, picking up speed: “Let’s go by this barber shop here, you can meet my friend Mike, he’s funny, if he’s working. We grew up with him and he’s super funny. He’s complete Mexican but he thinks he’s black. We call him Black Mike but he’s fucken hilarious. He’s the coolest fucker in the world. But, now, he cuts hair. You wouldn’t think of this guy doing bad to someone but a couple of years ago these black dudes came to his house at one in the morning and he ran outside and he stabbed em both. He stabbed one guy five times in the chest, punctured his lung, and almost killed the gy. But, they ‘d showed up at his house with baseball bats wanting to beat his ass. So he ran out and just started stabbing ’em.
A little more detail? “They just had some problems. He didn’t run away from the problem. He confronted ’em and that is just what he did.” Mike beat the attempted murder in charge, but spent time in the Santa Babs county jail. The question you must ask now, of course, is: is there a black man walking around Santa Babs wheezing?
“Hahahaha no! I don’t know where that guy is no more. I think he’s still around. But, a lot of the blacks live on the eastside. We have a few blacks over here but the ones that came per, the ones that had a problem, live on the eastside. I don’t think dude came back looking for Mike after that.”
I start talking gals and wonder if his surf thing impressed ’em. “The girls that I would like looked at me like I was whitewash. They didn’t like me cause I surfed and stuff. They’d rather Mexican guys who were tough and stuff. The girls I did like used to think I was a fucken bitch because I was a surfer and I did what white boys did…”
I’m shocked! White people aren’t popular in a Mexican neighbourhood? Say it ain’t so, Bob? Ain’t California a melting pot where you take a pinch of white man, wrap him up in black skin add some curly latin kinkies and y’churn out coffee coloured people by the score?
“It’s not like you’ll walk around and they’ll be mad at your because you’re white but they just don’t wanna be… it’s weird.” Yike!
By now, we’ve climbed up the mesa and we setup on a bluff for some photos. Bobby points out the eight channel islands, or at least the ones we can see, Santa Rosa, Santa Catalina, and says on a clear day y’can see all way to Point Conception, even down to LA.
Was there a comedown when you quit, financially, emotionally?
BOBBY: No, there wasn’t. Because surfers ain’t shit, fame-wise, at least. We’re not on the news, we’re not getting paparazzi following us no matter who the fuck you are. I look at it that we’re normal people and we surf. Outside of surfing, we’re nothing. So, I never looked at myself as special in any way.
The transition from earning a ton of cash for doing something you totally dig to chasing peanuts must be hard, howevs.
BOBBY: I got my money because I earned it. But I hated where I was at. I hated being with Reef. They used me a video that I fucken hated and didn’t want to come out but they did with me what they wanted to. At that time, money didn’t mean anything to me. That’s why I left Reef. It was my choice to leave Reef. Reef didn’t leave me. If I wanted to stay, I would’ve stayed and gotten my fucken 500 grand a year. That’s what they were going to pay me.
But, doesn’t that matter seem, in hindsight at least, kinda handy? Like, a year or two more and y’could’ve been in a real nice position…
BOBBY: Yeah, but, see, the thing is, I’m not a person who gives a shit about money. Because, I left a half-a-million dollar contract on the table. Reef was gonna pay me 550 grand a year and I said, fuck that, I’m done. I grew up with no money. I…I…see family members who don’t have money but are rich in… life. And, money doesn’t make you happy. And, that’s exactly what I was going through. So, I said fuck this, I don’t want be a part of it. I’ll tell you, I was happier without Reef than accepting that money and being fucking portrayed as an idiot… Same thing with Oakley. I was making 200 grand a year with Oakley and I said, fuck, I’m done with you guys. I’ve never been the type never to walk away from money. I’ve stayed true to myself and that’s it. Money doesn’t make me. I didn’t get into surfing for money, you know what I’m saying? If I’ve gotta garden and do that stuff, whatever, fuck, I’m not, I don’t give a shit. I’m not a money hungry materialistic guy. Maybe if I had to do some hard work, maybe it’d make me appreciate the things I don’t appreciate now. But, what I went through then, I didn’t enjoy it, so I said, fuck this.
Tearing up a half-mill contract ain’t easy.
BOBBY: I had a chance to make a million. My contract with Reef was 550 grand a year. If I got top five I’d make 850 and if I won the world title I’d get 1.2 million, right? I said, fuck you guys, get me out of my contract. I’m a simple person. My dad’s a very simple guy and my mom is very simple and I grew up with simple needs. And, I don’t need that shit, I don’t that. People will be, like, oh my god, you’re an idiot. Well, you’re a money hungry bitch in my eyes.
Sorry to pursue the theme, but did you make a few financial calculations in your head beforehand, to work out what kinda position you’d be in if you left?
STAB: I just did it and thought about the calculations after cause I knew I wasn’t going to be rich. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make enough money to set myself up for the rest of my life. With FTW I was making three grand a month. It didn’t work out ’cause he ran out of money. I took a pay cut for equity. Bobby (Vaughn, FTW founder) didn’t give a fuck and he wanted me to be me and it was a breath of fresh air. And, that’s something money can’t buy.
I’m hearing what you don’t like? Who’s got a good act?
BOBBY: I really like Dane and I like John John a lot. I like how they’re just mellow, stick to themselves. They’re definitely my favourites.
How about surf co’s? You like any?
BOBBY: I really love Volcom. I love that company. They’re insane. I wish I could ride for them. I liked Analog, too, they’ve got nice style.
What kind of place are you in with your surfing?
BOBBY: I don’t know where I’m at, really, I don’t know. Sometimes I want to try and do a turn and sometimes I’m, like, I don’t really care to do a turn. I’m at a weird place in surfing right now. But, I know I do have fun when I go out there. I surf to have fun now, but it’s kinda aimless…
You’re sessions are famous for being dramatically short, like, five-minute, two-wave sessions…
BOBBY: I have very short sessions when the waves are shitty. I don’t need to go out for an hour when the waves are two foot and try and do an air a hundred times. But, at least I get in the water. As least I do continue to surf. As for the tour, I’m very grateful for what I had. The ASP do do good for the surfers. I understand that. The tour gives the surfers an opportunity to say they’re ranked number two or one, to put a title on yourself. It’s how you make money. I give them credit. It just wasn’t for me.
Do you still follow the tour at all?
Do you watch the webccasts?
Now, tell me about your Quiksilver towel. I didn’t know you did ironic…
BOBBY: I only use it for my gym towel. I spit on it and I sweat on it. My good towels I keep for surfing. I use that one cause it’s a shit towel.
But ain’t the irony the cutest thing? Fuck the ASP! Now, where’s my gift bag!
BOBBY: (Laughing) Yeah! The gift bag! Exactly! Towels are my favourite ’cause I use ’em more than anything. I usually leave gift bags there, but this one had a towel so…