There are few surfers to have blended style and competitive fire, as well as Rob Machado. Nowadays, if you’re concerned with style, you follow a twin fin, mal riding free surfing path, and few combine such style with competitive success.
Rob was prominent on the Championship Tour throughout the ’90s but left the competitive scene to pursue a free surfing career after the WSL (then ASP) removed “style” from the judging criteria.
Competitively or otherwise, Rob is one of the most stylish and influential surfers to walk the earth, and his legacy in our sport remains strong. In this article, we dive into the life of Rob. We’ll discover everything from where he grew up, his professional career, notable surf movies he’s appeared in, and where he is today.
Table of Contents
Rob Machado’s Early Life & Surf Career
Rob was born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and moved to California when he was young. He attended San Deigulito High School, and his newfound location put him close to some of SoCal’s best waves. We’re talking Swamis, Blacks Beach, Trestles, etc.… While a self-proclaimed free-spirited soul surfer, Rob competed on the Tour for the entire 90s. With epic battles with some of surfing’s biggest names! Rob took out the Billabong Pipe Masters, the US Open at Huntington, and the coveted Triple Crown of Surfing–one of pro surfing’s hardest titles to crack.
However, Rob’s most famous surfing event was one that he didn’t actually win. After battling with Kelly Slater for the world title all year, the two were matched up in the final event of the year at Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu. After getting stupidly barreled, he finished a wave that came out of the barrel to high-five Kelly. Because of this, Kelly got priority to catch the next wave, and it’s a famous surfing tale that this moves lost Rob the world title that year. However, in a recent appearance on the “Ain’t That Swell” Podcast, Kelly debunked this myth by stating he already had Rob combo’d after already scoring two 9-point rides. A cool story, nonetheless!
Rob’s Unique Relationship to Competitive Surfing
A combination of unfortunate events led to Rob quitting the WCT in 2001. A strange year, not for 9/11 only but a year plagued by injury and complications with his first wife, Patou’s pregnancy. After only competing in 2 of the 5 events of that year (the European leg of the tour was canceled due to 9/11), Rob failed to requalify for the 2002 tour.
Rob went about the complicated process of applying for the injury wildcard for the 02’ season, writing a letter to the ASP to plead his case. Unfortunately, due to injury and having a 4-week-old daughter at home, Rob missed a critical “surfers meeting” held at Haleiwa. Usually, this is a surfer’s chance to fight their case as to why they should get the wildcard, but without being there himself, the wildcard was awarded to Shane Dorian instead.
After the ASP (now WSL) took style off the judging criteria, Rob quit the tour to pursue a career in free surfing, make surf films, and surf with style in good waves around the globe.
Rob Machado Surfboards
After riding for Firewire surfboards for much of his career, Rob now has his own Surfboard company, and although he still collaborates with Firewire, he sells his own range of surfboards. Rob Machado surfboard offers a range of boards from 7.0 mid-lengths to Twin Fins–boards that evoke style, flow, and fun.
Rob Machado Surf Movies
Over the years, Rob has been involved in countless surf movies. My personal favorite is The Drifter, which was made after Rob’s break-up with his first wife. The film takes you on a journey with Rob, chasing waves through Indonesia. Other surf movies he has starred in include Castles in the Sky, which, if you haven’t seen, I’d highly recommend) and Proximity. Rob’s most mainstream film was his voice-over role in perhaps the only good mainstream surf film, the animated “Surf’s Up.”
Rob was also part of the Momentum Generation, the generation of young surfers that paved the way for where surfing is today. This generation included Rob, Kelly Slater, and Shane Dorian, who surfed with a mixture of old-school flow and new-school flare–trying to stick it to and smoke the competition (older guys).
Personal Life & Today
Today Rob is still surfing, competing in less rigorous events, shaping, and participating in environmental causes. Setting up the Rob Machado Foundation, which focuses on environmental causes.
The Future of Rob Machado
Today, Rob lives in San Deigo, and his presence is felt by varying degrees of spending in the type of surf scene you follow. If you’re a fan of mal riding, twin fin fun, etc., you can catch Rob hanging out at Duct Tape events if you want to check out more of Rob’s surfing nowadays. I’d suggest checking out these events or watching some of the Surf movies mentioned above.
Dan Harmon is a content writer and full-time surf travel enthusiast. He travels the world full-time while creating surf content, traveling to the world’s best surf destinations, and hunting out some lesser-known corners. You can follow more of Dan’s travels over on his YouTube Channel, website, and Instagram.