Santa Barbara isn’t known for its left-breaking waves – let alone dredging, tropical water-warm, flawless tube machines. But for some reason, born-and-raised Westsider Bobby Martinez sure seems to shine in the anything but 805-esque conditions.
Yesterday, at a notoriously flesh-eating reef pass in Tahiti, the 26-year-old Martinez beat out the best surfers in the world en route to a first place finish at the Association of Surfing Professional’s annual stop at Teahupoo, a contest he also won during his rookie season in 2006. Though conditions weren’t the typical top-to-bottom death pits one usually associates with Teahupoo – contest organizers were calling it three to five feet – the waves were well-overhead, offshore, and offering ample tube time. Although surfing on a borrowed board, Martinez was able to cruise to victory, his first ASP World Tour win of 2009. When the horn sounded, the proud Pit local had not only drubbed current world number two Taj Burrow – Martinez dominated the final heat from start to finish – but his top two scoring waves added up to a near perfect 18.46 out of a possible 20, giving him the satisfaction of scoring the highest heat total of the entire contest.
“Things just seemed to work out for me today,” glowed Martinez after his win. “I really don’t know what to say. It feels really special.”
Besides netting Martinez a cool $40,000 first place payday, the win vaults him to number seven in the world with seven contests remaining in the 10-event season. Further, the win gives Martinez a well-deserved bit of validation at a time when he is competing on the world tour sans any major sponsorship help. Corporate sponsor contracts are the life-blood of any professional surfing career and Martinez, after having a falling out with longtime sugar daddy Reef late last year, has been in sponsorship limbo during the 2009 ASP campaign.
That being said, possible long-term paydays seemed to be the furthest thing from Martinez’s mind after winning the fourth major ASP event of his career on Tuesday. “I’m not thinking about money right now,” he said. “I didn’t start surfing to make money. I started for me, and to win today, you cannot put a price on the feelings I have.” The hard-working goofy-foot added, “I’m really going to let it sink in and enjoy it. It’s a great result, but it’s a long year and anything can happen.”