Rob Machado: The Drifter

Nov 18, 2009
Outside Magazine

Rob Machado's just come out with his latest project, The Drifter, a film he made with his good buddy, Taylor Steele. They've been working together since they were teenagers, which translates into smooth filmmaking these days. In the movie, Machado travels through Indonesia and Bali to chase exotic waves and hang with the natives. Sometimes he prefers the peace and solitude of a tent, and sometimes he likes to have a whole village surrounding him. Either way, he drifts in his own style. Outside Online caught up with him during his film tour.

--Aileen Torres

Have you always been known as The Drifter?
I made a movie in '97 that was called Drifting.

Well, hey, this is like Part Two.
Yeah. Exactly.

So, you've been touring with the film.
I've been doing it kinda off and on for the last month. I went to Australia, Japan, New York, and then East Coast, West Coast. We just finished the East Coast last week, and we're kinda on our last legs of the West Coast. We just did San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara. We're working our way back down. I'm in a motor home. We're driving to San Luis Obispo. We have a show tonight.

I heard you've been breaking out the guitar.
Yeah. We've been playing music at the shows. My good friend Jon Swift came along. He did a couple songs in the film. We have a few of our friends joining us, musicians, and we just kind of get up and--it's almost like a welcoming for people coming into the theater to walk into music being played. We play a few songs and then show the movie and play some music after the movie for whoever wants to hang out and listen. It's fun. We're mostly playing Jon's songs. We actually put out The Drifter Sessions, which is Jon's music that we recorded just for this project.

How are the crowds?
Every show's been really good. We pretty much sold out, I think, every show. The crowds have been really responsive and stoked the whole night, so it's been really fun.

You've worked with Taylor Steele a lot before.
Yeah. We grew up kind of at the same beach, and he and I started doing video when I was 15, making little movies in high school. It just kind of grew ever since then. We've traveled all over the place and hung out and done all kinds of stuff.

How'd you guys get the idea for The Drifter?
I actually went down to Indonesia 'cause that's where Taylor's living now. I went down there to shoot for one of his other movies, and I stayed at his house and cruised around. We spent a lot of time just hanging out and talking story. That was where the idea kind of came from. He said, You know, you should come back down and we should get a proper film crew and push ourselves to go surf some of these waves that are a little off the charts, off the radar, and that's what we did. We spent six months and chased waves all over and captured it.

When you were in Indonesia, you stumbled upon a tiny, isolated village.
Yeah, that was in Sumba. That village was amazing. It was like going back in time hundreds of years when you walk in there.

Did those kids really just find you sitting on a hill, playing guitar?
Yeah. It's amazing. You think you've found this nice little spot and think, Oh, cool, there's no one around. And then people just start showing up and checking you out, like, Woah, wait. Who's this guy camping out here in the bluff?

It's funny when you go back to your little tent and they send people to come check on you at night. They were looking out for you.
Yeah. It was crazy.

Have you been back there since?
No, I haven't. I'm kind of itching to go back and take them a copy of the movie and show it to them. Hopefully, this year.

What was the best part of making the film?
There are so many good elements. The surfing--the waves in Indonesia are amazing. The travel aspect--places like that village was incredible. There was so much going on. Every day was like a mini adventure. The people there are really beautiful; really honest, genuine people, and I just need to be surrounded by that energy.

You're going to Hawaii next.
Yeah. I think Taylor's going back to Indo. But I'm going to head to Hawaii for a little while. We're going to show the movie over there this winter, and then take a little break, I think.

You're no longer on the pro-tour. What does a typical year look like for you? Do you go surfing for a few months, then do a film, then a tour?
Well, going off on The Drifter roadmap, that was how it worked. We spent six months filming, spent almost a year editing. Sometimes, I work with different guys on different projects where it's not as hands-on for me. I just go on the trip, and the shoot will be like two or three weeks. That's just more, you kind of walk away from that and wait for the end product to see what happens. Next year, I really don't have anything on my plate to speak of right now, but it'll evolve pretty quickly, I'm sure.

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