MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
Growing up in Pismo Beach, Calif., a drill instructor spent countless hours hitting the slopes on his snow board. But with the need for adrenaline coursing through his veins, the drill instructor wanted to test the excitement of other extreme sports.
After Staff Sgt. Heath A. Gomez, senior drill instructor, Platoon 2122, Company F, became a Marine, he remembered the time he spend in the mountains snowboarding and began surfing, riding dirt bikes and cycling.
His horizons broadened when his brother-in-law, a student at San Diego State University, asked him if he wanted to go surfing with him one morning. Gomez figured the water would be a lot warmer in San Diego than it was at Pismo Beach, so he opted to give it a try.
Although snowboarding and surfing have similarities, surfing didn’t come easy for Gomez.
“Both snowboarding and surfing are a balancing game and a test of good coordination,” said Gomez.
It took him a couple of weeks before he caught my first wave. When he stood up for the first time, he felt exhilarated because he was gliding on water, he said.
It’s that feeling when he caught that wave that kept him going back for more.
“Surfing is really relaxing, even if there aren’t any waves,” said Gomez. “I just sit on my board and watch the sunset. Sometimes dolphins come up next to me.”
It’s a hobby he can just do by himself, and it can be really serene, he said.
Gomez said he would surf every morning if he had the time, but due to his fast pace job as a drill instructor, sometimes he must wait to indulge between his recruits’ graduations.
“I’m part of the depot’s surf team, and when I have a break I try to surf with them every week and go to competitions,” said Gomez. “We have really good camaraderie out there.”
Another way Gomez builds camaraderie is by riding dirt bikes with his Marine friends.
“I bought a bike three years ago and do it regularly between training recruits,” said Gomez.
Gomez tries to ride his 2007 Yamaha YZ450F three times a week.
“Being on two wheels is really fun and dirt bikes are very powerful because of the high torque,” said Gomez. “Once you get accelerating, it’s a good feeling because it’s almost like you’re flying.”
But Gomez would never partake in such high-intensity activities without the proper personal protective equipment.
“I wear a helmet, chest pad, elbow and knee pads, chin pad, eye protecting glasses, gloves and riding boots,” said Gomez. “I keep it real while keeping it safe.”
Gomez’s favorite place to ride is the Pala raceway in Pala, Calif., where a lot of professional motocross racers compete.
"My favorite rider is James Stewart because he is the best rider of his decade,” said Gomez. “And like myself, he rides a Yamaha.”
Gomez also likes to cycle when he has a break.
“Like dirt bikes, I like the idea of being on two wheels, but when you cycle you can see and smell everything,” said Gomez.
He likes to mix surfing and cycling in his workout regimen.
“Cycling is much better on my knees than running,” said Gomez.
Gomez does both for the physical benefits and the experience.
“It’s astounding how I can cover 30 to 40 miles in just an hour,” said Gomez.
Through all these extreme sports, Gomez’s philosophy is all about being outdoors and having an active lifestyle.
“It’s more fun and productive than staying inside playing video games,” said Gomez. “By being active, I can see my skills progress and I get a great sense of accomplishment.”
After partaking in surfing, motocross and cycling, Gomez feels refreshed and has a new type of energy that motivates him as a drill instructor, he said.