Catching up with Rob Machado

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Photo Courtesy of Hurley

Legendary freesurfer Rob Machado is having a busy year. First, he released and toured with The Drifter, a lifestyle film about his travels in Indonesia. Then he recorded the score to, Melali: The Drifter Sessions, a film Taylor Steel put together with the leftover footage from The Drifter. Now, he's acting as an ambassador for Hurley's clean water initiative, H2O—in between trips to Indonesia. And tomorrow, he's competing as a wildcard in Hurley Pro at Lower Trestles. I caught up with him to find out how he plans to make the transition back to contest surfing.
–Will Taylor

How are you feeling going into this contest?
I’m pretty excited about it, to tell you the truth.The chance to surf Trestles with a couple guys out and to compete with the best guys in the world is always a treat. Looking forward to it.

How is the transition from free surfing to contest surfing?

It’s difficult for sure. Free surfing is a totally different mindset, especially compared to competition. Competing you just have to be on top of your game, dialed in with your equipment, and really focused on the task. When I do have to compete I have to change my whole approach. I have to be like, “OK. I’m going to go surf a contest. This is how they surf a contest.”

Is it kind of like riding a bike, since you were a successful contest surfer in the past?
It is like riding a bike in a sense. I get it, I know what’s happening, I know what I have to do, but the actual act of doing it, when you’re not doing it all the time, you’re a little rusty getting back into that state of mind. There’s always the butterflies and the adrenaline and all that.

Is your heat strategy going to change with the new judging criteria on the World Tour this year?
Good, solid surfing is always going to be the staple for professional surfing. It has to be; it’s the foundation of the sport. I think that will always remain intact. I think what’s really going to happen is a combination of both those aerials and solid surfing. Pretty much what guys like Jordy (Smith) and Dane (Reynolds) are doing. They’re mixing the speed, power, and flow of traditional surfing with crazy, new, radical maneuvers. You don’t see Taylor Knox doing big aerials. He’s still strictly fundamentals, power surfing, but he’s a threat at Trestles. He’ll go out there and just lay down some serious carves. I think it’s going to be a great event. I’m not one to go out and do aerials. I’m about going  out and finding the best waves and just linkingtogether a series of solid turns.

What kind of board are you planning on riding out there?
I’ve definitely got my conventional thrusters. I kind of have some boards that are hybrids, as well. Not super short but mid-range 5'9″, 5'7″ that I’m looking at potentially riding. I like to mix it up a little bit.

Is there supposed to be a good south swell?
There is supposed to be some swell coming in. Lowers doesn’t need much, if it gets three to four feet it’s pretty much the most rippable wave on the planet. With two guys you can’t really paddle fast enough to get back out.

How do you prepare for contests?
Even if the waves are bad, just getting out there riding waves, even if it’s just paddling, getting in that kind of shape. Dialing in your boards is important. When I was in tour, it was all about being confident going into a heat. You’ve got good boards, you feel good, you’ve done everything you possibly could and that’s it.

Tell me a little about the Melali shows.
About a month ago now we did a proper premiere at La Paloma. That was a big highlight for me. My buddy Jon Swift and a bunch of his friends, there were six of us in the end, we got together and basically scored the whole thing. The idea was that we would play the soundtrack start-to-finish live. That’s what we did at La Paloma. We sat on stage right in front of the screen. We just had a blast, it was the best thing.

What prompted making Melali directly after releasing another movie?
The Drifter was more lifestyle heavy than it was surf. More storyline, there were waves in there, but not many. When you shoot for six months you get a lot of footage. We had a hard time incorporating all these guys that came along and surfed. It was Dane Reynolds, Kelly (Slater), Kalani (Robb), Mike Losness, and the Indonesian guys as well. We just couldn’t find a way to plug them into the Drifter. And then Taylor just started putting together sessions.

How’s the response to Melali?
The response for the live shows was amazing. People were blown away. We recreated the soundtrack the best we could, hitting the breaks, syncing with certain waves. People were totally tripped out. It’s all beautiful footage with all these different guys. People are like, “Why wasn’t this in The Drifter?” Well, it didn’t work, that’s why we made this. With The Drifter, we threw more into the storyline. It started as 75 percent surfing and 25 percent lifestyle, and by the end it flip-flopped. This movie felt very good to get all those waves out there. It’s beautiful footage that needs to be seen.

How is music playing into your life these days?
Music's always been a huge part of my life. When I’m airplanes, in my car, I’ve got tunes going. I love music and being exposed to new music, seeing live music, exploring new music, and of course, playing.

Can you tell me a little about H20?
The simple concept is that it’s Hurley’s initiative to do something about the water issues that we have, sorry, I’m distracted, I’m looking at the waves.

ow’s it look?
I just drove by T-Street and there’s actually little waves, looks kind of fun. Sorry, back to water. It’s kind of crazy when you break down the facts: 1 in 6 people in the world don’t have access to clean water and that number is supposed to grow to 1 in 4. I’m an ambassador for the whole thing. I did some work digging some wells in Sumba (Indonesia). We partnered up with the organization Waves for Water. I’m doing a trip with them next week to go to Haiti; they’ve been going down there a lot. What were doing is not nailed down exactly. It’s in infant stages and it’s going to find out ways to provide water to people.

What are you up to next?

After Haiti I’m going back to Indo. I’m doing a couple little journeys surfing and filming. I’ve always got something going on.

All right Rob, thanks for talking with me.
No problem. I'm going to go get wet.

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