SURFER Interview with Rob Machado

It's difficult to tell how old Rob Machado is at a glance. The only visible sign that today isn't yesterday, or five years ago for that matter, is how he's wearing his hair or sculpting his goatee. At 32 years of age, he remains the picture of good health: His lean frame veils the hidden strength—yes, strength—in those elongated and elastic muscles. He rises at dawn every morning, not to be first in the water, not because his tiny daughters Rose and Macy are already stirring at that hour, but because he's hungry. A gnawing in his stomach literally forces him out of bed. "I've been that way my whole life," he says. "I wake up and have a bowl of cereal just to function."

Today is a typical morning in the newly rebuilt Machado home. After being displaced for more than a year, Rob and his wife Patou are still overseeing the finishing touches on their dream project. The all-new two-level pad is spacious and modern, with big airy rooms and beautiful wood-framed windows that draw your attention to the whitewater views of Cardiff Reef. Rob is content in his new perch and the girls seem to be settling in, too. Macy, the timid little toddler, is dressed in her mom's heels, clacking around on the hardwood while trying to sniff what's resting up on the granite kitchen countertop. Rose, the always-sociable four-year-old, is sitting with dad. Both are downing bowls of Honeycomb cereal, but Rose breaks several times to show me her Barbie doll.

"Macy is the one who actually eats all day," Rob says, profiling them for my benefit. "Once she smells food, man, she's on you, but she barely talks. Rose is the talker. She'll go up to anyone and just start rapping out." Patou confirms this while checking e-mails at the island in the kitchen. Staring at her laptop, she reads any pertinent details aloud to keep Rob up to speed on the day's schedule: Rose needs to be picked up later; a contractor is coming to brief them on surround-sound speakers; and oh, by the way, "Rob, did you know you need to be at the NBC studios in San Diego in an hour?" The short answer is no. Rob downs the rest of his Honeycombs, helps Rose find her shoes and heads for the door.

Even though he's in a hurry, he foregoes the freeway and heads south along PCH to partake in his morning ritual. He cranks his dusty Ford Explorer into the lot at Seaside Reef and quickly confirms what he already knows—the ocean is flat. But he stares for a while just the same. Calibrating his demeanor to the stillness seems to be a must before proceeding. Sensing a deep connection with this place, I ask Rob how his family came to live in Cardiff, and he takes me back to his dad's early days.

Did he grow up here?
My dad and my uncle actually grew up surfing in the South Bay with Ricky Grigg in the '60s. They lived in Culver City, of all places. But my dad left when things were getting out of control back then and ended up in Australia. I can't even imagine that. How cool it must have been down there back then. That's where he met my mom. They met at a ski lodge or something; they were both really into skiing.

That's right. You were born in Australia.
Yeah. My dad did two years in the service right before Vietnam flared up and then he split. My grandpa drove him down to the docks in Long Beach and he hopped on a big freighter. Eventually, it pulled into Sydney Harbor, and he just started traveling around down there. I know he came back at some point when things were out of control, all the chaos, and he was just like, "Wait a sec, I just left Australia for this?" He was up on the northern beaches of Sydney, and anyone who's been there can only imagine how beautiful it was back then. So he went, "I'm out of here." He was a builder for a while, then he had a laundromat, and then he and my mom had a restaurant right on the beach at Manly.