It’s dawn in Central California as One More Wave rider Jose Martinez and his support team prepare themselves to the steady drumming of 10-foot plus surf echoing up the cliﬀ. It’s a ﬁtting soundtrack for one of the biggest days in the Adaptive Surﬁng League’s (ASL) history.
The weekend oﬀers the chance to hunt prey Martinez thought would never be accessible to him; big waves at a world-class reef break with jetski and rescue swimmer support. As the contestants and their support teams prepare to paddle into the maelstrom at Steamers Lane, they plunge headﬁrst into history battling one of the gnarliest waves this side of Mavericks. On the line, bragging rights, a world title, and the chance to shatter ‘normies’ expectations.
“One More Wave has helped develop the equipment I need to tackle these monsters…”
Only Martinez wasn’t supposed to be here. He wasn’t supposed to be anywhere after stepping on a 60-pound vehicle killer IED in Afghanistan in 2012. If Ford trucks were built Martinez tough, they would have a larger market share. “It’s a miracle my squadmates saved my life,” says Martinez. “I’m meant to be a gargoyle, I am here to fucking save lives and play around. This is my family, my tribe, my people. One More Wave has helped develop the equipment I need to tackle these monsters, they custom made a gun (big wave board) for this event. They have helped give me a platform to tell my story and inspire others. Fuck feeling sorry for yourself, let’s go surf!”
Months after arriving in-country, the squad gunner found himself in a coma for 10 days. When he awoke, Martinez learned three of his limbs, and some of his remaining ﬁngers, had been vaporized instantly. For most, it was a death sentence but not Martinez. He had already walked away from a successful life of crime to enlist in the ﬁrst place. This crazy son of a bitch loved a good ﬁght. In the world of criminality, success is determined by the cleanliness of one’s wrap sheet.
A Movement Begins
Created in 2015, the non-proﬁt One More Wave (OMW) has become an innovator in adaptive surf equipment out of pure necessity. No two adaptive surfers’ needs are the same; oﬀ-the-shelf is often oﬀ-the-table. Founded by legendary retired Navy SEAL Alex West, OMW also creates communities of surfers around the country focused on tapping into the healing power of the sea. Sometimes that means empowering big wave hunters like Martinez by building the perfect tool for the job. If you want to hunt the real monsters of the sea, you need the right equipment. Just ask the wild children throwing themselves down Mavericks or Queequeg.
Many surfers who have aspirations of dropping down the Big Nasty of Half Moon Bay cut their teeth on the shallow reef that give Steamers its special blend of power, size, and speed. It makes sense: before you ride the lightning you have to hug the thunder.
The Lane, Santa Cruz, CA.
Waves stand up at The Lane; they look like a semblance of themselves out to sea, until racing up the steep incline just beyond the point. They jut up to dramatic crests by the Walton Lighthouse before crashing down onto the reef and cliﬀ face to the left. Once the wave breaks, there is only one direction for the water to go: over the reef and out the backend.
It’s dangerous for the support teams as well. The bigger the waves, the deeper the Pusher has to go to get the riders moving. That means even the most skilled facilitator is due to end up over the falls and face-ﬁrst on the reef.
For the catchers, they have to sit in the explosion zone, sluﬃng oﬀ concussive blast after concussive blast while eating walls of water, air & sand. No diving for the bottom of the wave here, that could end your day in traction. Rather, these teams of courageous crazies have plans to tackle these monsters like early men hunted mammoths. Divide and conquer; let the wildest man jump on the big beast.
People decked out in tattoos, skate shoes, camouﬂage, tattered wet suits, and crooked smiles came together to propel each other into a creative space most land-lovers can’t survive. Veterans, hippies, ministers, surf rats, teachers and preachers all put their best foot forward in an elegant dance. Keep your Russian Christmas ballet, this was my kind of Winter Wonderland show.
This ragtag group of seekers, their loved ones, and an audience of just as many people will allow for a non-protest proved the pundits wrong, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t magniﬁcent to behold. We are more alike than diﬀerent, what a concept.
The magnitude of the event is tough to quantify, but seeing hard-to-kill people overcoming the odds, and winning oversized checks surﬁng world-class waves, will echo out over social media in the coming months. Multiple veteran publications sent journalists to cover Martinez, attempting to spread the story of these wounded heroes overcoming adversity. Try interacting with Martinez and not leaving extra motivated.
“This is a huge leap forward for the ASL,” says Martinez who is also an ASL board member. “Did you see those waves out there this weekend? It was crazy, the biggest conditions most of us have ever surfed but deﬁnitely the biggest waves this contest has ever seen. To ride a world-class surf break on a world-class day, and to get to be on Surf-line the whole time, it was ﬁring man! This wasn’t an epic adaptive surf contest, this was an epic surf contest that adaptive people competed in.”
After the contest wrapped up, Martinez headed home to pack for a big game bow hunting trip he is scheduled to go on in Texas. Second overall in both the big wave surﬁng event and world championships, Martinez’s mood couldn’t be happier.
He’ll be back next year, looking to hunt bigger waves and sweep the contest to claim his ﬁrst world title.
To learn more about One More Wave, click HERE.