SAN DIEGO -- Jose Martinez hopped on a surfboard for the first time just a few years ago and now surfs in competitions as a triple amputee. With help from the San Diego Festival of Arts, the former soldier will put his surf skills to the test on the shores of Oahu.
Most Thursday mornings, you can easily spot Martinez riding the waves at Del Mar beach. He's the guy with the huge smile on his face -- and for good reason.
"After my accident I never thought I'd be happy again, to be honest with you, and being out here and surfing and changing the aspect of what's going on with me, it changed everything for me," said Martinez.
Which makes the nearly six hour drive round trip from Victorville worth it.
Martinez was introduced to surfing in 2014 as part of his rehabilitation program at Balboa Naval Hospital. A Compton native, Martinez had never surfed before, but can't imagine his life without it, now.
"I've gone through so many deficits from growing up in bad neighborhoods to trying to find myself and after all, this is the happiest I've ever been in my life," said Martinez. "I'm living life, I'm enjoying it, I'm married. I've created a family. I'm enjoying life every single day and surfing, it's amazing."
But before he found surfing, Martinez was an Army Specialist serving in Afghanistan. In 2012, he stepped on an IED and lost both his legs and his right arm.
"People forget that it's OK, "said Martinez. "It's OK to hurt and it's OK to struggle sometimes and because of those struggles, the reason why we laugh and smile at the end of the day is because guess what, we went through it and we survived and we're still here."
In June, Martinez plans to compete at the International Access Surf Competition in Hawaii, an event that features other adaptive surfers pushing forward.
"I was told that I couldn't do something and I just want to show them that no matter what they tell you, we're here to push forward and try to live life as best as possible and I'm trying to live my dreams and I think I'm doing great job of it," said Martinez.
And many would agree.