Eli Martinez has not worked one day in the past eight years.
“When you do what you love, it’s not work,” Martinez said.
Martinez has managed to turn his passion for sharks into a full time job.
Martinez’s background was in bull riding but after sustaining an injury to his hip he began to look for other thrills. Shark diving started as a hobby but Martinez said he wanted to do it for the rest of his life.
Martinez knew he wanted to tell stories but he lacked a journalism background. He worked tirelessly to create contacts and set up a website followed by a magazine, Shark Diver Magazine.
Through his magazine he was able to dispel common misconceptions about sharks.
“They are not killers,” Martinez said. “I’ve never been bitten. The only time a shark will attack a person is if we do something that triggers their hunting instincts.”
He said most bites are accidents, where the shark thought a human resembled a seal or sea turtle.
“Sharks have been around for millions of years,” Martinez said. “We aren’t on the menu yet.”
After the magazine was up and running Martinez wanted to take the next step into film and television.
“As a storyteller I wanted to tell bigger and better stories and reach a larger audience,” Martinez said.
He began working with networks like The Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, but said, “I was telling their story, not mine.”
Martinez then began writing scripts and preparing to break into the film industry.
“My goal was to get (the film) into all sorts of film festivals and have a distributor pick it up and then we could get into the TV market,” Martinez said.
His first film fell short in the festivals but that did not discourage him.
“I kept writing scripts and pitching shows,” Martinez said. “I knew what I wanted and I wasn’t going to stop until I got it.”
He described his next film, The Shark Con, as “more controversial” and it has been accepted to 21 film festivals and won 11 awards to date.
“I look forward to Mondays,” Martinez said. “My job is a labor of love.”
Martinez said “if you chase what you love, the money will come.” He described times when he ran out of money and was unsure if he would be able to continue the magazine, “but something always came through and in the end I kept publishing.”
Shark Diver Magazine publishes three copies a year, which is all Martinez can handle at the moment. He spends a majority of his time underwater observing and studying the creatures he loves.
Martinez said over the years he discovered that different sharks have different personalities.
“Some just love a good scratch,” Martinez said. “Lemon sharks have specific jobs. Some guard the perimeter, others investigate, it is amazing to watch.”
Martinez proves that it is possible to turn your passion into your career. He said all it takes is “persistence.”