A decade ago, Dennis Martinez thought he was a walking corpse.
Like many drug abusers, he was living for the next high. Tough times made him feel as if his death would come at any minute on any day.
‘I’ve gone from the top all the way down to the bottom. I was homeless and lived in the dumps, robbed people and that kind of thing.’
The San Diego, California native rose to fame in the 1970s. After turning pro in 1977, he won the 1978 World Skateboarding Championship and the U.S. Skateboarding Championship.
He was sponsored along the way by brands such as Bahne Skateboards, Gordon and Smith and Alva Skateboards. He also did commercials with Pepsi and 7Up.
Martinez took drugs for some 20 years starting when he was roughly 18. He got so dependent on drugs that he would get extremely high (on over $200 worth of crack) before events.
Soon he was broke, sick and out of the sport. He overdosed at least twice and nearly died.
In the midst of all the despair and depression, Martinez found God. He felt as if God had spared his life for a reason. He soon got involved with a church in his area and cleaned up his act.
The former pro skater is now alive and well. These days he tours around the world speaking against the lifestyle and the drugs he once enjoyed.
Martinez was recently in Cayman promoting the movie D.O.P.E that stands for Death Or Prison Eventually. Martinez, along with a group of pastors and members of the movie crew, travelled to some 16 schools over two weeks across Grand Cayman.
The movie focuses on the rise and fall of four champion skateboarders, including Martinez. It was shown at the John A Cumber Hall over the weekend.
The group also went to the local prison to show the movie to inmates.
Among those responsible for getting Martinez to Cayman and acclimating him with life here was the Cayman Outreach Association, Officer Steve Myers and youth pastor Felix Manzanares.
For Myers, the movie and Martinez’s life are strong warnings for Cayman’s youth.
‘The movie is life: it’s real and all true. It is sad but there is redemption in it as well.
‘We’re letting kids know that they are our future. From experience I can tell you that getting into drugs is wasting their time and mine. There’s no doubt that drugs will destroy their families in time.’
Manzanares echoed those sentiments and added that having the movie and Martinez here is a necessary effort in reaching Cayman’s youth.
‘We have to reach the youth. As a youth pastor I want to encourage and lead the youth to a new relationship with Jesus. I simply want to encourage and mentor our youth to lead a new life in Christ.’
This is not the first time Martinez has graced these shores. He was in Cayman last year and spoke at four schools. He says he intends to be back next year and ‘see every school in the Cayman Islands’ .
Martinez seems to have a gift for connecting with people. Whether it is his straight-up manner or unorthodox biker image complete with tattoos all over his body, many are soon captivated by him.
Among the local youth that have quickly looked up to Martinez is Brian Myers. Brian is the son of Officer Myers and an aspiring professional skateboarder.
Brian says it was spectacular meeting Martinez and seeing him skateboard.
‘To perform with an ex-champion is an honour. To be around him is truly enlightening.
‘Seeing him skateboard makes what I’ve heard about him all true.’
It’s not much surprise then that when Martinez returns to the US, he’ll go back to his current job at a drug and alcohol treatment centre for men. In addition he will devote his time to prisoners in a maximum security prison as a volunteer chaplain.
In the end, Martinez says DOPE will cement his life’s turnaround.
‘With God all things are possible. Before, I was part of the problem. Now I want to be part of the solution.’