All photos courtesy of 121 Photo.
Arnold Martinez is a man with a mission. At a young age, he moved with his family to the Philippines where he began racing Jet Skis in 1995, quickly progressing to the professional level. He continued to race in the Philippines up until 2002, when at 37, he moved to the United States, quit racing watercraft, and focused on his professional life running an audio and video equipment business.
Fast forward to 2017, and after living and working in the U.S. for many years, he walked into a local dealership on a business trip to Florida and purchased a used Jet Ski for $3000. After a nearly 20-year hiatus, he had caught the bug again and decided to make a second go at watercraft racing—this time at the age of 55. He found that he was still driven and wanted to win races despite a long time away from the sport. Like many things involving muscle memory, Arnold's riding skills quickly returned after only a few rides. His first race back was at Lake Hartwell in Georgia for the Pro Watercross Tour round, where he competed in the IROC Stock and Box Stock classes.
As Martinez explains, when living in the Philippines, he had always dreamt of someday racing in the United States. He had always admired racers like Chris MacClugage and Nicholas Rius, who are both his teammates on the Broward Motor Sports race team now. But not only is Martinez living out his dream of racing watercraft in the U.S. alongside some of his racing heroes, but he has also become an inspiration to others. By starting racing again at age 55, he is defying age. At the same time, Martinez shares his years of accumulated wisdom as an unofficial safety gear advocate and EVS Sports product ambassador at the watercraft races.
Martinez has suffered his fair share of injuries—some more eye-opening than others—that left him contemplating why racers choose not to wear safety equipment beyond a simple life vest, gloves, a helmet, and goggles. One race, in particular, changed his outlook on safety equipment after a close call that could have been catastrophic. After missing a buoy and heading in the wrong direction, he T-boned and collided with another racer. Although they each had scrapes, bruises, and a hard time walking for a couple of months, there were no significant injuries. He realized he had gotten lucky. He believed he wasn't wearing enough safety gear and was determined after that to find ways to make watercraft racers safer.
After a crash as big as he had, Martinez realized it was better to be proactive and wear more safety gear now (for injury prevention) rather than wait (as he did) until after an accident happened. He understood it's the only way to eliminate those "should-have" moments that come about in hindsight. Since his return to watercraft racing, Martinez has noticed more racers wearing neck braces, knee pads, and body armor—all items that can better protect one in the event of an impact. For example, before Arnold began wearing the G7 Ballistic Suit, he suffered some broken ribs from a crash and wishes he would have had more protection.
Martinez thinks the mentality of wearing only the bare minimum required protection when racing likely stems from the 1990s, one of the more popular periods in watercraft racing history. Riders then did not have many options for safety gear. The boats were not as fast as they are today. But times have changed—and so has safety technology—and today, Arnold Martinez has made it a point to share his watercraft safety gear experience. He believes products such as the G7 Ballistic Jersey, Wrister Glove, Hex Pro Knee Guards, and R4 Neck Brace—although not specifically made for watercraft racing—can make a big difference in the event of a crash or heavy impact.
Although mainly racing for fun these days, Arnold "Dominator" Martinez is still a racer at heart and loves winning. Look for the #88 this October at the World Finals in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, as he chases number one plates in the desert. But he also believes in another purpose for being at the races: contributing to better safety gear choices in the sport. He's passionate about watercraft racing and has become a safety ambassador for the sport and a role model for those who believe age should not stand in the way of accomplishing one's personal goals. A big thank you to Arnold Martinez for all that he does for the sport of watercraft racing while being an inspiration to others.
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