What people mistake for a “who cares” attitude is actually a quiet and complete understanding of the world. Humility and nonchalance. Mellow disposition. Wicked-good style and contest savvy. These are the trademarks — the signs to look for — when you suspect Rob Machado is around.
Gotcha Europe’s team manager Martin Potter says he’s “The Lopez of 2000” And if there were two more events, Rob’s momentum would have led him to a world title, considering his winning streak in France and Portugal. His signature surfing event, the Rob Machado Cardiff Classic, is walking distance from his house at Cardiff Reef in San Diego’s North county. Home to other surfing legends Taylor Knox and Brad Gerlach.
Nobody ever remembers who came in second. But everyone will remember who took first at the Pipe Masters this year. And it’s safe to say Rob Machado will be remembered for coming third in the world in the year 2000 — nearly matching his second-place finish (just behind Slater) in 1995.
I caught up with Rob on the Big Island of Hawai’i as 2001 was just kickin’ in. Here’s what the “Mob” had to say about life, love, and the simple joy of just going surfing with your friends.
TransWorld SURF: All right, Mr. Robert Edward Machado, let’s start with your age.
Rob Machado: Between 20 and 30. I forget. I was born in ’73. I stopped counting.
How about your best career highlights?
Rob Machado: 1986 U.S. Amateur Championships- won the Menehune division, and surfed in the Super Heat against Kelly Slater. But it was Kelly’s home spot, Sebastian Inlet, (Florida), so of course he won that heat… NSSA Nationals Champ, a few times… Age 14- 4th place in P.S.A.A. Bud Pro Tour at Seaside Reef (San Diego). Lost to Richie Collins, Mike Lambresi and Todd Martin… Age 17- won my first pro contest at Sebastian Inlet, same place ironically where I won my first amateur event… ’92- Won Bud Pro Tour, and then onto the A.S.P. Tour full time in ’93… ’94- won Marui Pro in Japan… 1995- Big Year. Repeat victory in Japan, then on to win U.S. Open in Huntington Beach, beating Kelly in the final. Another win at Hossegor. Then the big showdown-shebang at Pipe: 2nd place to Kelly (who squeezed out Sunny for the title) in the very final heat. That was my biggest highlight to date, until this year’s Pipe Masters… The years in between were kind of “mystery years.” I won a couple contests here and there, but never really made a run at a World title. I think I got fourth one year. I had a few years where I was 11th, and 13th in the ratings.
I think you have to be 30 to win a World title now.
Rob Machado: Yeah, so I’m right there.
Home is Cardiff by the Sea, (San Diego) but what about Hawai’i?
Rob Machado: I’m in escrow right now, buying property here on the Big Island. Could be a possible residence. I think I’ll keep my house in California too, and soon have this.
Close to Shane Dorian’s new place?
Rob Machado: Yeah, right around the block. He just built an incredible place. It’s inspiring.
I thought maybe you were gonna move to France. Patou (Rob’s French wife) would be stoked , eh?
Rob Machado: I think she likes it more over here. She’s from an island (Reunion) so she needs to have that island thing going on.
Do you think the French fans love you so much because of your wife?
Rob Machado: You mean the French Connection? Yeah. Maybe. I’ve always loved France, the whole vibe, the night life, the wine, their approach toward the beach… They just appreciate things. It’s a whole different perspective. When they go down to the beach, they go, and they have a good time. They appreciate surfing, they clap, they cheer. It’s really cool.
Does it feel as good to win in Europe as in Hawai’i?
Rob Machado: You can’t really compare anything to the Pipe Masters. But it feels good to win in France, or where ever. It feels good to win, period.
People are calling you the “New Gerry.” What does the Pipe victory mean to you?
Rob Machado: It was a huge goal in my life to win an event in Hawai’i. I grew up idolizing Gerry Lopez, and all the great surfers at Pipeline. I basically chose Pipeline to be the spot where I was gonna try and surf the most, and do well.
Do you look in the mirror and say to yourself: “Holy Shit- I won the Pipe Masters!”
Rob Machado: It’s crazy. I’m still trippin’ on it. Being over here, I’ve just been chillin’ with boys, and I haven’t even gone home yet. I think it’s gonna even sink in more when I leave Hawai’i, and see my whole family. The City of Cardiff wants to give me a proclamation from the city… So, I think when I go home it’s gonna be a whole ‘nother level. When your with your boys it’s not like everyday they’re saying: “Dude, you’re the Pipe Master,” ya know? It was that one day and we were all super stoked, and now we’re just back to ourselves again.
What went through your mind as your best friends carried you out of the water on their shoulders, parading you to the winners’ circle?
Rob Machado: That was it, that pretty sums it all up. To have all your boys come down and be that psyched and carry you up the beach… Can’t even really describe it. That’s as good as it gets.
Do you know who was the last Californian to win at Pipe?
Rob Machado: Joey Buran was the last to win it, in ’84, the year I started surfing.
Who are your all-time heroes at Pipe?
Rob Machado: The biggest influence on me was probably Gerry, just his lines he drew. Ronnie was just crazy out there. Tom Carroll for just being a lunatic. Derek… Nowadays I admire guys like Kelly, his ability to surf Pipe and Backdoor with equal ability is just on a freak level. It’s inspirational. Bruce and Andy, of course, and Shane (Dorian), those guys take it to a new level. You can’t just be a Pipe surfer, you gotta surf Pipe and Backdoor.
The joke is that you don’t really go Backdoor, but I’ve seen you score 10’s there.
Rob Machado: There’s a huge advantage being a regular-footer at Backdoor ’cause there’s really no channel, it’s just a flat reef, and you’ve gotta pick a wave that has a good-looking shoulder. That’s just the way it breaks, it favors frontsiders. You don’t see a lot of backside guys getting really good barrels out there. It doesn’t look right. When you pull up to a surf spot, a goofy-footer’s lookin’ for a left and regular footers are lookin’ for a right. Especially when you’re paddling for a wave. You know your abilities going left and you know your abilities going right, and looking right at Backdoor is like, really intimidating, compared to going left… It’s heavy. Backdoor is so gnarly.
You’ve had some exciting moments competing against Kelly at Pipe.
Rob Machado: We’ve had a few battles. I’ve never beat him out there. Our first time was in ’95, that had to be the highest scoring heat in the history of pro surfing. Last year I had to surf against him in the quarters, that was when I got a ten on that right, and he beat me then too and he went on to win the contest. I woulda’ met him this year in the quarter-finals but I surfed against Andy ’cause Andy beat him.
Anybody else stand out at Pipe in your mind?
Rob Machado: Guys like Braden… There’s a good crew of guys that surf out there..
How about younger guys. Any kids that you think are coming on there?
Rob Machado: No. It’s hard because the pecking order is so heavy out there. When you’re a grom… I saw Freddy Patacchia out there and he’s got the ability to get pitted but he just can’t catch the right waves right now. That’s just the way it is in this world. I guess in the years to come he’ll work his way in there. All those groms are putting in their time right now, and get a couple sick one’s here and there, but they just don’t get the best waves.
How has the support your dad’s given you in your career helped the most?
Rob Machado: It goes back to beginning when my dad was my coach. He would drive me to every single damn amateur contest there was. H
e just looks at things from a really different perspective from most other people, that’s something I’ve picked up from him from him just being my dad. I think I’ve learned a lot from him, the way we drove to all these contests. He ended buying this old shitty motor home just so we could be comfortable. He got sick of sitting on the beach all day, so he said ‘screw this’ and now he could take me to contests and I could surf my heat and he could sit and watch a basketball game or a football game, and he could just chill out, and he had a refrigerator and a bathroom, ya know… I look back now and I’m like, that was smartest thing he could have ever done- drive to to the contest the night before so we didn’t have to leave at four in the morning, sleep in the parking lot in your killer motor-home, and you’re stylin’. From there, when I turned pro, he actually traveled with me my whole first year as a pro, he went to every single event. I think about that now and it’s like ‘wow.’ Luckily, he’s basically retired and takes care of a littlefamily business, so he had the time to do that and he committed all that time to me. He traveled around the world to like, twelve contests and he rented cars and got hotels in places we’d never been and we didn’t know what we were in for. We just charged it.
He dealt with a lot of stuff so that you could focus on your responsibilities.
Rob Machado: Yeah, It was pretty radical. When he was my age, in his mid-20’s, all he did was travel the world. He was a ‘trash man’ in Australia, did random jobs… He got on a boat when he was 22, and went to Australia. It took a month, he just worked on a boat. The way he sees the world and the way he approaches things, the way he handles things- I was just really fortunate to learn from him.
Rob Machado: He’s over it now, he just chills at home, goes to Cabo, plays golf and surfs, and now I’m doin’ it on my own. He’s still totally into it though, sends me emails, gives me shit. I called to tell him I won the Pipe Masters and he asked me why I fell on one wave.
How does having an agent help you the most?
Rob Machado: I had Bryan Taylor before, but split with him about ’96. Then we did our own thing for a couple of years, just me and my dad. Then I met Justine (Chiara), through doing our record (The Surfers, Sony Music, w/ Kelly and Peter King), she was our manger for our record deal. She moved into the extremesports thing and she’s been great. She’s been really helpful taking care of all my stuff so I can surf and do my thing.
Rob Machado: Gotcha. Reef. Dragon. Channel Islands. Clive (bags). Spoon (watches).
Tell me a sponsor story. Have they made a doll out of you yet?
Rob Machado: Spoon is the most creative. They’re wacky. They actually made a doll, I have about three of them at my house. They’re funny, man. When they first made one, my friend brought it over from Japan and I wanted like 50 of them, to give to all my friends just for fun. But they ended up costing around $300 eachand hours and hours to make.
That’s a big compliment. Kinda creepy, but still…
Rob Machado: Yeah, I was totally blown away. They’re like, my watch sponsor, but they’re that dedicated to doing fun stuff and it was just for prize-type giveaway’s. But I ended up getting a couple extra made. Patou sleeps with them when I’m not around.
Speaking of Patou, here’s the inevitable question: What about kids?
Rob Machado: She looks pregnant right now, but I don’t think she is…
It seems you two would have nice looking children.
Rob Machado: We’re planning on it, and hopefully that’ll be the case. I can’t say when it’s gonna go down but, it’s definitely closer than it was a year ago.
Would they speak English or French, or both?
Rob Machado: They’d speak French, mostly, with a little bit of English mixed in. Maybe some Spanish. They’ll be world travelers too. It’s coming… .
You’re lucky. Having your woman with you while traveling has got to be so much better than thedrama of: “Honey, I’m leaving again, see you in a month.”
Rob Machado: I don’t want to talk about her too much, she might get cocky. She already is cocky… You can’t beat it. When you can travel the world and do your job and be able to see all the great things that we get to see, and do it with the person you love… that’s it, that’s the best feeling in the world. And she’s really helpful in my whole thing, she books tickets and takes care of all my travel, she handles our finances…. you can’t really beat it. We’re trying to find a place to live where we can be happy and settle down, and have somelittle ‘Mini-Me’s.’ Someday…
What do think about Sunny?
Rob Machado: I love Sunny. He always seems like he’s a tough guy, the bully. But I think he’s got that real Gentle Giant in him. I remember when I was 16, Sunny woulda been about 20, and I was out at Pipe on a small, four-foot day. I dropped in on a wave, and this guy dropped in on me and the guy started snapping at me. I was all scared, I was just a grom, and Sunny paddled out and was like: “What?” and started yelling at the guy, on my side, and told the guy to go in. I was like, “Whoa,” I didn’t know he cared about me. You think he’s like the scary guy that’ll kick your ass, but he’s a little pussycat inside. We’ve always hada good relationship.
Rob Machado: After he stopped doing the tour, we moved into a different part of our relationship, we could let done our guard a little bit. We had really gnarly rivalries and we were really competitive toward each other. It kind of pulled us apart as friends for awhile. Now that he’s not on tour we’re able to realize that contests are contests, and we’re friends, no matter what… He’s a freak, ya know? He’s a fuckin’ Super Freak. He has nothin to prove to anyone anymore, but when you surf with the guy, he’s still trying to prove to you that he can still kick your ass. He pushes limits to new limits, and you’ve gotta admire him for that. Every time you surf with the guy you’re like, “Fuck that guy,” and it just makes you wanna try harder. I admire him for that.
Rob Machado: The Poor Specimen? He’s been monumental in our little crew, the “Momentum” crew that we put together, and he’s creative as ever. When I was young, I used to go out on the beach and he’d be standing there with this shitty little video camera and I’d be like, “Why would you want to stand on the beach and film all day? Is this guy trippin, or what? The waves are perfect.” And I’d always trip out on him. Then he started making these little videos, and I had a whole segment in his high school video project. Then he branched out and took his first trip to Hawai’i… But the real turning point was Momentum when we all went to Puerto: Kelly, Shane, Ross, Pat…and he didn’t want to come cause he didn’t know those guys, but he came and ended up scoring great footage, and really bonded with all of us.
Rob Machado: I can honestly say that guy has pulled me through some rough times in my life with this music. And then getting to hang out with him and knowing the sincere, honest person that he is, you realize that his music is so from the heart, and from his soul. And it’s eye-opening ’cause you don’t see that so much in music. His music is incredible and so is he. I’ll listen to his music my whole life, that’s for sure.
Rob Machado: It was crazy. It was an experience that came at a pretty heavy time; It all went down during that ’95-’96 season when Kelly and I were number one and two in the world. It was heavy. There was like heavy rivalry going on and we were making a record and it was time consuming…. So much time and so much money trying to make the record. It was so eye-opening. I consider myself to be pretty new to th whole music scene, and to be thrown in with all these guys (producers and studio musicians) that were so broad and so talented, it was crazy. the songs we wrote and the record we made, I’m super
stoked with it. It’s something I’ll have for the rest of my life. We didn’t sell even 20,000 records, but whatever the reasons were, who cares? We made a record that we love and were stoked with. We played our last shows in Japan last year and then just kinda decided, that was it. It’s super fun and we loved performing, but we all have pretty crazy schedules…
Do you always travel with a guitar?
Rob Machado: Yeah, it’s pretty helpful to my sanity… To find a nice tree to sit up against and strum some tunes, or a little party atmosphere where everyone sits around and plays songs and sing alongs by a campfire. It’s therapy for me, a way to not think about anything and be lost in my own little guitar world, and be in my own place and be comfortable. It brings me back to where I need to be.
Injuries- You seem to be relatively free of them.
Rob Machado: I’ve been very fortunate, and I attribute that to the amount of stretching I do, and how flexible I am, and I focus on that huuuge. I think that’s really the key to not getting injured ’cause you’re gonna find yourself in places you don’t want to be in and when something pops, that’s it — your flexibility wasn’t good enough to take you past that point and something gave…. I try to be as flexible as possible and I’m not as gung-ho as some of the other psychos out there. I’m more of a ‘calculated risk’ guy. But I love to get the heart rate going, that adrenaline… I had a little knee problem, a partial tear in a ligament, and I was out of he water for over a month. Otherwise, just the usually cuts and bruises and surfing related things.
What training do you do?
Rob Machado: Well, it’s kinda hard when your never home. When I am home I go to yoga classes and try to to absorb what’s best for me. But when your on the road its hard to discipline yourself to do a whole yoga routine without someone there to guide you. I find myself doing the stretches that are the most crucial for the parts of my body that I need to keep limber.
Are you conscious of your diet?
Rob Machado: I don’t like to eat a lot of crap. I try top keep my diet pretty clean, I don’t eat a lot of meat. But I’ll try anything. I’ve learned from traveling around the world that you can’t be a picky eater, and you can’t be a strict vegetarian. You have to branch out or you’ll starve traveling around the world.
Rob Machado: I don’t mind the occasional good time. I love hearing good music and having fun with the boys. I like going out and having a good time.
Rob Machado: That’s a scary one. Maybe a coupla’ cocktails to loosen me up first.
Rob Machado: Amazing game. So much self-discipline, it’s taught me a lot about myself, how to deal with emotions. It’s like torture though; you go out and you look down and there’s this stupid little white ball and a hole 400 yards away, and there’s nothing tricky to it, just hit the ball in the hole. But it drives you crazy.
Future goals, beside a world title?
Rob Machado: Staying competetive and furthering my surfing ability. Constantly learning, I still feel like a little kid… Keep moving forward and progressing.
You seem like you’re always in a dream.
Rob Machado: I agree. It’s a dream. It’s a beautiful world we live in. It does have its’ ups and downs. You gotta learn how to deal one way or the other. Sometimes you’re up sometimes your down, and you gotta be able to keep your mind in a place where you’re comfortable. That’s what I try to do. My dad has always kept me in check. Winning contests you tend to be cocky as a kid. I remember when I won the OP Jr in ’89, and driving home he knew I was feeling cocky ’cause I’d just won. I was like, “Yeah I’m cool, I’m the shit.” And we stopped at a stoplight in Newport and he looks over at the car next to us and asks me: “Do you think those people care that you just won a contest?” And I was just silent. it was this older couple with their kids in the back and they looked like they just came from rollerblading or whatever. And I was just looking at him going “No. they don’t.” And I went from being like “Yeaah, I just won the contest, I’m the shit,” to just like, “Oh…o.k., maybe not that many people do care.” And that comes in my mind all the time. I’ll win a contest now and go down the street to a restaurant and people are working there, doing their thing, and they don’t even know who you are. You’re just another person — we’re all just people, and I’ll be like, “Ok, cool, I’m just a person too man, like right on… Can I get a fricken, Chicken Sandwich?”
Are you dreaming right now?
Rob Machado: Yeah. I’m in Hawai’i, man… Palm trees blowin, and there’s gonna be some waves here pretty soon, and I get to go ride waves. The other day I surfed this great little wave with Dan Malloy and there was no one around we were hootin’ and hollaring at each other, and it didn’t matter if we did a turn or just went straight or whatever. It was great… We surf contests and try to win and we compete and all that, but you don’t get as much satisfaction as when you go surf with your friends in fun little waves. That’s what I’m talking about.
What is your favorite thing about Rob Machado?
ROSS WILLIAMS: “He’s so stylish with his surfing, Most surfers are trying to get radical-Rob is retro, super stylish and humble in the water and on land. Such a fresh outlook.”
PATOU MACHADO: “He makes me laugh, he’s so funny, and he’s the cutest husband. I like the whole package.”
TIMMY CURRAN: “He’s just one of those great people.”
DAN MALLOY: “My favorite thing about Rob Machado is his style and I’m not just talking about his surfing.”
KELLY SLATER: “He’s just so cruisy all the time. I’d actually like to see what Rob’s like when he’s mad. It was cool to see him at the Pipemasters, all emotional.”