I’ve been a huge fan of Rob Machado for years. Like his legion of followers, I’ve watched him mature from his OP Pro Junior win back in 1991, to his tense World Tour runner-up finish in 1995, to his heartbreaking 2001 season and beyond. I even had the good fortune of seeing Rob completely own a solid day at Seaside reef back in the earliest of his Momentum days. As a youngster myself at the time, I was grom-abused (at the threat of a serious beatdown) into ringing the doorbell of Rob’s parent’s house and asking for Rob. Quaking in the shadow of a hero, I opted to take the beating.
Flash forward to 15 years later and fresh off his incredible giant killing performance as a wildcard at the 2009 Hurley Pro at Trestles, we’re sitting with Rob Machado at a preview showing of his new film, The Drifter.
With all your drifting, where is home these days?
I spent a good portion of last year away in Indo, with no real trips home. My family was staying in Reunion (where his wife his from), and they visited me in Indo. San Diego is still home. I’m living in Cardiff, right up the street from where I grew up.
What is a typical day in your life like, post tour?
Wake up the kids, make some pancakes, get them off to school and then head down to the beach to check the waves. The surf really determines my day. If I know the waves are going to be good, I’ll pawn my parental duties off onto my wife. I’ll always surf for a few hours and then revert to the other side of life – emails, etc. I dabble in a lot of different things, but it seems like I’m always picking up boards, dropping them off, fixing and cleaning them up. It’s like a constant cycle of maintenance. I’m always playing around with some designs and working with Channel Islands to come up with new stuff.
Speaking of parental duties, when did you start putting the kids in the water?
I had my kids in the water when they were under a year old. I just threw them on my longboard and paddled out. Then they kind of figured out that they were scared and I had to kind of back off. This summer they’ve been getting in the ocean and bodysurfing and riding boogie boards and I just stand back and let them do their thing. My little girls are 5 and 8 now. My 8 year old will fully surf. I can go out on the right day and push her into waves and it’s no problem.
Tell us a bit about The Drifter.
I spent almost the entire year of 2008 in Indo. We filmed for about a six month period. It’s not quite a documentary. It’s not a typical surf film. We’ve had a hard time really categorizing it. It’s six months of me wandering through Indonesia, and that’s what inspired the movie to be what it is. It’s kind of like a collaboration of all these things that I encountered in my travels, put together in a nice little one hour package. It’s a journey. There are moments that have a documentary feel, there are pure surf movie moments, and we even had to recreate some moments that happened when the film crew wasn’t around.
It was great to see you kicking ass and taking names at the Hurley Pro. How did it feel ousting Taj Burrow and Joel Parkinson at Trestles? Is there any guilt in knocking out tour front-runners as a wildcard?
It’s interesting because I’ve been in that position. I’ve been a top seed and have had to surf against wildcards. It can be really difficult. Sometimes the wildcards are a breeze, and other times they’re guys who will fly through heats and win the event, like in Tahiti. You never know what you’re going to get. If those guys (Parkinson and Burrow) are going to win a world title, that’s what they are going to come up against – a variety of different wildcards along the way. It’s something they’re going to have to negotiate their way through. If anything, it makes things a little more exciting. It put Mick back in the game. Kelly moved back up in the ratings. It will get interesting, I think. I think the year is far from over.
What were you riding in the Trestles event?
We call it the Machado model. The name is probably going to change. I looked at the forecast for Trestles and knew it wasn’t going to be pumping, so I went for something a little bit shorter and a little bit wider.
How do you feel about Kai Otton being compared to you in surfing and appearance?
Ha, ha! We were over in Indo together, having a laugh and comparing our hair. He’s great and I really like Kai a lot. He surfs great. He was talking about how when he was a kid he used to watch videos of me. It’s just cool. You kind of forget how old you are.
Any hard feelings toward the ASP or your former colleagues on tour for the abortion they put you through back in 2001?
No. I pretty much shook that. At the time it happened, I definitely held on to some anger and had some issues, but it has kind of opened up a different side of life for me that I enjoy more. Freesurfing, making movies, traveling to places where I’m not amongst the chaos those guys live with. It’s pretty hectic.
It must be terrible traveling to the world’s best surf spots in their prime seasons and trading empty waves with only one other guy.
Ha! Ha! Oh man, come on! Anywhere they are, even during freesurfs, you’re competing with the world’s best for waves. Around the Trestles event, there were 15 guys out and 13 of them were pro surfers. It’s way harder to catch waves in that lineup than if there were 40 guys out and no pro surfers. The World Tour guys are so wave savvy and they’re on every single wave that comes in. It’s pretty intense and it wears on you.
What about the “new” tour – What do you know? What can you tell? What do you think? Will you be a part of it?
I honestly don’t know very much at all. I just heard that there was a tour that was possibly going to happen. It sounds interesting to me. If you ask me, the ASP needs a little spark; someone to light a fire under them. I think if anything is going to come out of it, it’s going to be good. I think they’re going to find a way to work together and maybe create another tier on the tour. I don’t know how it’s going to work. They both understand that there needs to be one world champion and a feeder system. There needs to be a way for an aspiring pro to get there. If they want to incorporate specialists or wildcards, I’m down. I’m cool with that.
Who is one of the best surfers that no one has ever heard about, or one of the least hyped, best surfers out there?
There’s a kid named Ryan Birch. He’s from my town. He’s a tall, skinny, lanky kid like me. He’s an artist. He shapes his own boards. He paints his own boards. He’s a super good longboarder. He rides alaias, twin fins, finless… everything. He rides a thruster really well. He’s a really diverse cool guy. It’s always cool to surf with him. He’s always on good waves and he’s got a good style. It’s just cool. I really appreciate guys who can cover the whole spectrum. He’s the real deal. He works at a surf shop and if he’s not working, he’s surfing all day.