For surfers of different generations, San Diego’s Rob Machado brings to mind different visions. Surfers of Gen X likely remember Machado as a standout member of the innovative, tail-sliding, punk-rock-scored, Taylor Steele-chronicled Momentum Generation, and a Bud Tour dominating, Kelly Slater-high five-ing, Runner Up for the 1995 world title. Since retiring from professional competition in 2006, however, Machado’s remained in the surfing limelight, capturing the attention of the Millennial generation as the musically inclined, twin-fin riding, free-surf personality, best exemplified in Steele’s 2009 travelogue, The Drifter.
But Machado’s fluid, Gerry Lopez-inspired signature style (along with his mop of curly, ombre hair) has served as his defining trait, appealing to surfers from every generation that came before or after his initial star turn in the early ‘90s.
Machado was in town to introduce a new collection with Hurley, a trip that included a visit to Neptune Beach’s Aqua East Surf Shop for a video premiere and a Q&A session. He stopped into the Void office, where we decided we could best be of service peppering him with questions he might very well encounter at the surf shop—sort of a Q&A prep, if you will.
Wave pools are dominating the conversation these days. You’ve surfed Kelly’s. In your opinion, does the potential proliferation of wave pools represent a monumental change for surfing? If so, what exactly will change?
It seems like we’re going to see a lot of them pop up in a lot of places. And a lot of new people are going to start surfing. There will probably be a whole culture of wave pool surfers. But you know what? As a more experienced surfer and someone who has ridden a wave pool wave, I can tell you, it’s really fun. I haven’t been to Waco. But the surf ranch is really, really fun. A crazy day of riding waves with your friends and hanging out.
If you look at Waco, it’s polar opposite. It’s designed for the public. There’s little kids getting small ones over here, guys doing backflips over here. It proves there’s a successful model for a public wave pool.
It makes me wonder what your generation, with the progression that you guys brought to surfing, would have been able to accomplish with a perfectly predictable and/or puntable wave?
I know, it’s really wild. We’ll see where it goes. There’s about to be wave pools everyone and the level of surfing is going to change because of it. Does it mean that the ocean is going to be more crowded? I don’t know. People might just be stoked to go to the people on the weekend. But I also think it’s interesting, physically, you don’t have to paddle in wave pools. And you surf the longest wave of your life. So you might see like a Tour de France body type on surfers now [laughs]. All legs because you don’t paddle.
Twin fins seem to be having yet another moment. They had their era, notably under the feet of Mark Richards. Then in the early 2000s, the Steve Lis style fish was somewhat en vogue with you and other experimental minded surfers. Noe we have guys like Ryan Burch and Asher Pacey really pushing the performance level on kind of hybrid designs. You shape one yourself and have a model with Firewire. What’s you history with the shape and why do you think it keeps coming back?
I think the speed is addicting. You go back to the old school ones, Skip Frye’s, Steve Lis’s, the speed is so noticeable. MR dominated on his. His were more high performances. But I think the maneuverability and performance, you get this feeling where you are just on egg shells, but you get good bite, good hold, you get a different fun feeling. And it’s fast. I did a trip with Burch to Teahupo’o and he wanted to ride a fish. And he did great. And he was stoked. You talk to guys like Potts [Martin Potter] who are twin fin fanatics and he can’t believe people don’t ride a modern twin fin in competition. But again, it’s the speed. You notice it right away. And it’s addicting.
Moving on to professional surfing. Do you keep up with the WSL? What do you like about where professional surfing is right now? What would like to see improved?
I watch them sometimes. I have fantasy team. I don’t have Facebook so I can’t watch it, unless its on the app, right? I’m not sure.
But we’ve been talking the last few days about this actually. And one of the ideas I had, was to actually add guys and then the first two rounds wouldn’t be live, or on the webcast. Then you televise the last two days. You get down to the last 20 guys and it’s more focused. But then you’re not spending so much money on so many days of production.
Also, and this is kind of funny, but I suggested to Pete Mel and Joe Turpel and they looked at me funny, I said, “You guys ever think about when a guy stands up, just not talking and let them ride the wave without commentary?” They didn’t like that. But I think you don’t have to talk us through the wave. You’re going to show a replay and say the same thing you already said. Just kick back when the guy is riding.
That could be cool and it might give it a more heavy feel, like everyone just watching in silence.
Totally. “He’s up and paddling and he’s about to stand up…” [Rob silently looks around]. People wouldn’t know what to do [laughs].
I wanted to talk about music. What’s new with you musically? Are you playing or writing a lot? How does it fit into your life, currently?
Oh, I love it. Right now I’m not in any organized band. I keep a couple guitars around the house. My son’s four. He likes to beat the guitars up. It’s definitely a part of my life. As he gets older, he has a little drum set, and he looks like Animal from the Muppets [it’ll be cool for him to play]. There’ll be some drum lessons, piano lessons, and I’ll be right there taking the lessons with him.
And I’m sure you’ll get some questions about shaping, tonight too. Are you in the bay, designing/shaping everyday?
My son goes to school Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I hang with him Tuesday and Thursday. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday are my days to work on other stuff. I call it more designing. Or R&D. I’m surfing, tweaking, and giving feedback. Which I love. There’s nothing better than making a board and then figuring out, “oh, what if I tried this or that.” Sometimes you loop all the way back around and end up at the same place. But it’s fun.
Then I eventually get to a model and I deliver it to the guys at Firewire. It’s a weird scenario for me. When I first started riding for them they just wanted me as a team rider. I wanted to design boards. And it’s evolved into this thing where I love doing it, people are stoked on the boards, and I’m like “Wow, alright!” It’s led me down this path that’s a great partnership.
And you do custom stuff, too?
Yep. So I don’t put any boards in retail, but I have a website. People can go on there and order a custom board. “I want a Go Fish with an orange resin tint with a black pin line and gloss polish with glassed on keels.” Sweet. We do probably ten, 20 a month.
This interview originally appeared on our site in August 2018.