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Friday, July 27, 2012
Grande Magnum

Magnum Martinez
Winning ISA Masters gold, Magnum Martinez remarked, "This isn't just for me, this is for all the people of Venezuela."

"Magnum Martinez Campeon del Surf. Bravo Magnum! Viva la Patria Venezolana."

Translated that reads: "Magnum Martinez Surf Champion. Barvo Magnum! Long Live Venezuelan Pride."

That tweet comes from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. It's not often presidents tweet about surfing, but Magnum Martinez winning Masters gold last weekend as the ISA World Masters Surfing Championship was a big deal.

For those who don't know Martinez he is somewhat of a late to the sport of surfing. He started surfing at the age of 15. Quickly he had the Latin American pro tour title under his belt, a couple of WQS finals that include a win over legend Tom Curren back in 2002 at the Billabong WQS event in Costa Rica, a Surfer Magazine cover and countless editorial pages in international publications. At age 38 he finds himself in what some would call his first world tour final considering his opponents.

To set the stage, in the Masters final he faced Sunny Garcia, the 2000 ASP World Champion, Kaipo Jaquias and Armando Daltro, both former ASP tour veterans. In what possibly could be the most stacked heat of his career he rose to the occasion not only for himself, but for his country of Venezuela.

"This is the greatest gift in my career," said Martinez, with tears streaming down his face. "I was getting a lot of support through the Internet and I was trying to embrace it to help me get to first place. Thank you to all the people who support me. I have to thank Jaquias, Garcia and Daltro, it was an honor to be in that final. We were competing, but there was much respect between all of us."

Magnum Martinez
Martinez's gold medal showing, tack sharp and unstoppable.

During his heat the countrymen in his corner talks about the possibility of what he needs to get back into first after Sunny had gone out into first. A wave pops up on the horizon with just over a minute remaining. Venezuela's coach Diego Naranjo makes the call, "This is the one!"

Magnum paddles into it to the wave, stalls on the take-off, puts himself in the barrel then comes out to executes a solid snap off the top to finish it off he races to the close out section that simultaneously gets hit by a backwash. His arms raise, the claim is on, looking towards the judges knowing he had the score.

"This experience has inspired me to do more events" as Martinez later. "Lets do this." Jaquias and Garcias come to his side and raise his arms in salute of the champion. Honored by the Hawaiian's reaction to his win he's stunned. The Venezuelan team is ecstatic, chanting and celebrating his victory.

Nicaraguan newspapers put Martinez on the front of the sports section, the headline reads, "Grande Magnum." ("Magnum the Great"). And now Martinez must return to his country later this week and face the media frenzy that awaits him: press conferences, TV and radio interviews, major newspaper features, all promoting him as the first Venezuelan to bring gold home to the country, and thusly making him a national icon for the sport of surfing.