California, America's surf-culture epicenter, is 35 percent Latino, yet it was only last year that Santa Barbara's Bobby Martinez broke into the ranks of the Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour as just the second Mexican-American pro. Stormed the ranks, really. Martinez, 25, finished fifth overall, matching the tour's best first-year performance, and claimed the ASP's 2006 Rookie of the Year award. Mixed Tape: Bobby Volume 1, a Reef DVD about the 2006 season, with Martinez playing a starring role, is out this summer.
NATURAL TALENT: Martinez at home in Santa Barbara
OUTSIDE: You've got a reputation as coming from a tough neighborhood. But you're from Santa Barbara. How's that?
MARTINEZ: It's a little Mexican community on the west side. You go into the markets and everyone is speaking Spanish. It can be really rough. Gang stuff happens all the time.
Were you involved in gangs?
No, but a lot of people I was around growing up, a lot of friends, were, and they're still into that lifestyle. It was never an option, but it was right there. One of my cousins died in a gang fight. One thing led to another.
With all that going on, how did you get into surfing?
My dad took us to the beach. He got me a boogie board and then a surfboard when I was six. I've been surfing since then.
What should we expect from your new film?
I'm proud to say it's my movie, because I'm also showing the other guyslike Bruce [Irons] and Fred [Patacchia]. In the Billabong movies, if you don't ride for Billabong, you're not in it. If you're my friend and I love the way you surfshit, you're in.
You've placed 17th back to back to start this season. Any grief from your sponsors?
No pressure. They know I want to do as well as I can. If I'm satisfied, they will be, too. I'm ready to throw myself over a 20-foot face to get better than 17th.