Legendary Surfer and Environmental Activist Rob Machado’s Favorite Things

Machado stays connected to surfing in part through his Encinitas, Calif.-based studio, 

Rob Machado Surfboards.

As the sport of surfing recently reached a new milestone by making its Olympics debut in Tokyo, thoughts turned to the legends of the sport, icons like Rob Machado who paid their dues and spent thousands of hours in the water when sponsors and viewers were all but absent. 

“When I first started competing in surfing [in the early 1990s], you were required to maintain amateur status or go pro. We were not able to accept prize money or take corporate endorsements,” Machado says.

“I feel a bit torn [about the presence of surfing professionals] because it’s so cool when the Olympics have strictly amateurs competing, but I understand how difficult that is with the dedication and resources needed to train,” he says. “Overall, having surfing in the Olympics will help the sport and get it in front of people who may not have had an interest before and that’s a good thing. Surfing is so magical, I always want the best for it as an activity.”

Now retired from competition, Machado stays connected to surfing in part through his Encinitas, Calif.-based studio, Rob Machado Surfboards, where each board is touched by Rob personally. 

“In terms of my hand-shaped boards, they are sold out and back-ordered until I find more time in my life. Right now, we could make custom boards all day, every day, and would never catch up to demand,” Machado says. “Surfing has been an ideal sport during the pandemic—you’re outside and always trying to maintain a certain distance from others. Participation is way up and demand for surfboards has increased massively.”  

Among Machado’s sponsors is the performance eyewear brand Dragon, which has built a Rob Machado Resin Collection of sunglasses and eyeglasses, featuring a special colorway based on Machado’s lauded surfboard designs. Certain styles of frames are partly made from castor-bean oil instead of petroleum-based plastics. “It’s a great process that helps reduce the impact on the environment,” Machado says.

Machado has also spent time during the pandemic working on the launch of Solento, an organic, small batch tequila and lifestyle brand founded by his friend, Taylor Steele, an Emmy Award-winning surf filmmaker.

In normal times, Machado can be found appearing at schools and volunteer events in support of the Rob Machado Foundation, which educates and empowers young people to make sustainable choices. What started in 2004 as a program to introduce children to gardening at their local school has morphed into something bigger. 

“The idea was to encourage a connection to the land and the food they eat,” Machado says. “It has evolved into a water filling station program across a growing network of schools and public places. The program helps deliver clean, filtered water and encourages the use of reusable bottles over single-use plastic.” 

Machado, 47, lives in Encinitas with his wife, Sophie, a son, and two daughters. He recently spoke with Penta about his favorite things.

"Surfing is so magical, I always want the best for it as an activity," Machado says.

Todd Glaser

The best book I’ve read in the last year is… The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice—Crossing Antarctica Alone by Colin O’Brady. There is something about people overcoming incredible odds and going on these amazing trips that speaks to me. I typically reach for nonfiction books about great journeys—Enchanted Vagabonds by Dana and Virginia Lamb is another good one. Anything with an adventure story of people pushing way beyond the limits of life and personal discovery.


The one trip I’ve taken that I would love to do again… Italy—for me it was something different from a surf trip. I know there is surfing in Italy, but it was an opportunity to really enjoy the people, the atmosphere, the culture and the food. I was able to decompress and enjoy life while being on vacation.

Something I do to relax is… these days surfing is one of the things I do to relax. It has evolved for me from having to catch a million waves or make sure to have the gnarliest air into more of a meditation. Today, it’s more about the time between the waves. Paddling out and just enjoying being in the water and being mesmerized by the ocean.

The person I most admire is… my mother and father are my heroes. They worked so hard when I was growing up—Mom was a schoolteacher and Dad was a construction contractor—and still found time to play tennis and support everything my brother and I wanted to do. Once you become a parent you really understand how much your parents sacrificed for you and supported you while growing up. Today, they live the dream and spend half of their year on a sailboat—happy, healthy, and retired.

The one thing I travel with to make my accommodations/hotel room feel more like home is… my journal. I bring it with me everywhere and I jot down notes about my trips, what I’m doing, and I just keep a little running tab of what was going on at that place and time. It’s great to look back at the places I’ve been and what was happening while I was there.

An artist whose work I admire is… Sage Vaughn, his work is beautiful. You must check him out.


My favorite neighborhood in the world is… Cardiff, Calif. It’s full of beautiful people, eclectic neighborhoods and everything you could ever want—waves, awesome people, fun little shops, and amazing weather. It feels like an eclectic neighborhood ranging from the mega-homes to the little corner store and everything in between.

My idea of a perfect meal is… my wife’s homemade pasta. Grandma’s recipe, “the Sunday sauce,” has been handed down through the family and is amazing every time.

A passion of mine that few people know about is… Pickleball, I can’t get enough of it. It’s the perfect blend between table tennis and tennis. Fun game that requires strategy, plus you get in a nice workout without having to chase tennis balls down.

When travel opens up more freely, the first place I’m going to is… Indonesia—it’s a yearly family trip and we miss being there. Love the waves, the people, and the culture. Bali has grown and become more crowded over the years, but we have been fortunate to make friends there and have been able to spend time in these quiet little sanctuaries. I always want to give credit to the people of Bali for maintaining the culture, their religion, and their communities, despite all of the people that now travel to visit. The people we meet there bring me back, everyone is so gracious and kind to us.

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