Jay has a big personality and despite only entering the water five to six times prior to joining the One More Wave family, his hard work as a surfer has become a centerpiece for his daily life. Jay was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and moved to Miami, Florida, when he was just ten years old. After high school graduation, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2007. His first three years in the Marines were uneventful working administrative jobs, but after successfully completing EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) school in 2010, he prepared for his first combat deployment. As an EOD technician, Jay deployed in 2012 to the Helmand Province, Afghanistan, with 1st Marine Division, 7th ESB, 1st EOD Company, Bravo platoon.
Jay's role as the assistant team leader was to operate the robot that’s specifically used to detect and dismantle IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). His team relied on him to solve complex problems to make it home alive. “We were hunting for bombs, hunting for IEDs, my sole job was to find the power source, the wires, help identify them to render them safe.
“What impacted me the most was seeing my best friends get killed and get blown up,” Jay said. “One of my close friends that I used to hang out with and have dinner with every weekend, he was killed by a machine gunner and that was my first wake up call.”
Another unfortunate casualty on this chaotic 10-month deployment came when two of Jay’s mentors stepped on or were hit by IEDs. They both returned home with missing limbs. “Little by little, a lot of people that I knew weren’t coming back in one piece and that’s what stood out to me the most.” When Jay returned from his deployment he got into trouble with the law and was arrested. He sought counseling for his anger issues. “In 2014 I struggled with Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) and other underlying issues and I was doing outdoor and recreational therapy to get back into a balance.”
The recreational hiking and other outdoor activities didn’t last because he couldn’t relate to the insight of others who didn’t have similar combat experiences. “I like One More Wave because, for me, the military is the last thing I want to talk about and here it’s just different,” he explained. “Surfing has helped me keep that balance in life.” As he left the military that same year he began a new chapter with a focus around surf therapy.
“Being in the water gets you engaged and disconnected from everything else that you have going on; work or life or stresses,” Jay described. “It’s peaceful and it’s quiet, calm and chill, but it’s fun too to catch a wave because of the rush.” These are common feelings amongst One More Wave team riders because of the benefits of surf therapy.
Surfing can be a great substitute for other types of physical lifestyles. One doesn’t have to rely on going to the gym to get their exercise in. “Surfing helped me because I wasn’t working out at all and you’re out there having fun, living healthy, being cautious of the water,” he said. “Getting into that peace of mind, that in itself is a workout.”
“The equipment I received from One More Wave is pretty beneficial because it’s what got me out there,” Jay said. “When I got my first board I was out there every day at 530-6PM surfing at La Jolla Shores.”
One More Wave equipped Jay with a blue foam top from South Bay Board Co. This allowed him to learn to surf to get a feel for what he may of needed for additional assistance as he progressed to a custom. At One More Wave, our riders provide us with their vision and our talented team of surfing professionals bring it into reality. “It’s super nice dude, it’s an 8-footer, white and green, and I have the person’s initials that worked on it so it made it very personal,” he said. “I also have the EOD badge on it and traditional fins from the 1950s that pop on and off.”
Once a rider is approved by One More Wave, they receive access to our group chats on the mobile app GroupMe where other team riders can schedule meet ups to go surfing together. On anniversaries or heavy days like Veterans Day or the 4th of July, the outreach is very interactive. “We support each other as a group and they always let you know like ‘Hey bro, I know it’s a tough day, but keep pushing, keep moving, you’re not alone.’”
The community of surfers, veterans, and volunteers is more like a family than anything else. “If we need something, we reach out to each other,” Jay spoke on the evolving surf community at One More Wave. “Because I do construction [Costa Azul Contracting Group], if Rob reaches out to me, I can provide work to somebody that may need it or if I need help on a job, it’s a big network we all use.” Assisting in the stabilization of personal lives goes a long way because of the lasting impact it has on everybody involved.
“It’s a great community, I participated in events for people who have passed away and we would go out there and do a paddle out and that was life changing for me,” Jay reflected. “It helps me see a bigger picture.” Jay has also taught his friends and even his son, Vicente, how to surf. Through One More Wave and the events that are regularly held on the third Saturday of every month (San Diego, Santa Cruz, Oahu), Jay introduced his passion for surfing to those he loves most. His next goal is to get his wife, Maria, into the surf to learn too.
“I was new to surfing and he [Vicente] didn’t have any experience, he only knew how to swim, and he learned on the blue foam one from One More Wave and, eventually, I bought him one of his own.” Together as a family, surfing is a part of all their lives and continues to bring new memories and endless joy.
When Jay is not surfing, he attends college where he is working towards obtaining his Bachelor’s degree in Engineering. Since founding Costa Azul Contracting Group in 2018, the strong bonds he’s forged remain close even beyond the surf. Jay says he plans to put an awareness message with the One More Wave logo on his construction trailer. “It’ll be to let people know that One More Wave exists, this is what we do, and how to support it.”
Follow Jay on Instagram: @jaym0530
Author: Matt Fratus