Ricochet, the 13-year-old therapy pooch, became the world’s first-ever “canine-assisted surfing dog” in 2009 when she jumped on the board of a 14-year-old boy with a spinal cord injury.
She’s been helping wounded warriors and veterans with post traumatic stress syndrome ever since.
Her latest student is US war veteran Jose Martinez, a purple heart recipient who lost three limbs after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
Ricochet and the charity set up to help disabled surfers – One More Wave – have handed Jose a custom adaptive board, which he hopes will get him to the Paralympics.
“I can’t thank Ricochet enough for her continued support,” says Jose. “We have changed people’s minds and hearts, showing them anything is possible.
“The custom board has made a big difference. I’m able to paddle better and make better turns. My goal now is to get to the Paralympics 2028.”
To see a video of Jose’s first ride on the board, go to https://bit.ly/JoseFirstRide
The force of the blast threw him in the air and instantly amputated both his legs, right arm, a finger on his left hand and some internal organs. His unit worked feverishly to get him ready for an airlift to the hospital. Ten days later, against all odds, he woke up from a coma.
Jose was in the hospital for two years, enduring 21 invasive surgeries and months of aggressive therapies.
Doctors told him he would never walk again, and he’d be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. But Jose wasn’t going to let anyone tell him what he could or could not do.
In 2014, he was introduced to surfing as part of his rehabilitation with the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. He didn’t surf prior to his accident, but now he says he can’t imagine life without it. He has become a dynamic competitor and has won medals at national and international tournaments.
About 22 US veterans take their life by suicide every day.
“I almost killed myself three times and eight of my veteran friends have already taken their lives.
“I was suicidal for a very long time. I hated life because of what happened to me. I hated life because of the continuance of my thought process of why me, why me, instead of what’s next.
“I’m still here for a reason, and that reason is my brothers and sisters in arms thinking their lives are over, because they aren’t. I thought mine was, but it was honestly just getting started. Thankfully I was able to save myself, and now I’m here trying to save everyone else.”
Now medically retired, Jose is married to his wife Liseth, who has been by his side throughout his recovery. Jose walks on prosthetic legs, drives, rock climbs, swims, surfs and anything else he wants to take on.
“The only way to win the battle on earth is to first defeat the battlefield inside ourselves,” he says.
Judy Fridono, Ricochet’s guardian, said: “I take great comfort in knowing Ricochet’s legacy will live on through the sponsorship of Jose. It’s a privilege to be so closely associated with one of adaptive surfing’s most recognisable individuals.”
Contact Judy Fridono at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Ricochet on social media @SurfDogRicochet