04/12/2011 05:16 pm ET Updated Jun 12, 2011

Pro Surfer Rob Machado on Avoiding Hotels, Packing Socks, and Eating Kangaroo Tail

Known for his Zen-like flow both on land and in the water, Rob Machado is one of surfing's most recognizable figures and favorite ambassadors. With 12 career WCT victories, a spot in the Surfer's Hall of Fame, and a passion for the environment, Machado continues to inspire and re-define what professional surfing is all about.

Since his departure from the ASP tour in 2001, he's hung up his competitive hat for a different sort of experience; roaming the globe, making music, surfing the world's best waves and deepening his commitment to environmental awareness.

On a rare extended stay at home in Southern California, Rob shared some of his favorite travel hits and misses with me.


What's the best hotel you've stayed in?

Truthfully I despise hotels, I've had such better experiences staying at people's houses and guesthouses, it's so much more comfortable, and homey. One spot I've stayed in particular is at a friend's place in Tahiti right on the water. He built a little bungalow in the corner of the property, it's made entirely of wood and mud -- he even planted a tree inside the house that is a staircase to the loft. All the shelves in the shower are built from the beach and surrounding area. It's the most incredible little bungalow. You can walk out the door, he has his own little pier where he parks his boat, and there's a drop off to deep, dark blue water where you can just dive in. It's a gem.

What was your favorite vacation?

A vacation for me is coming home. I live this crazy dream life, I traveled so much last year, I remember arriving home January 10th, I knew I didn't have anywhere to go until March and it was the coolest thing to be home, no trips planned, nothing work related that I had to do -- I thought how great it was that I could just chill out, relax, organize my house and be home.

Where would you love to go visit?

I went to Chile about seven years ago with some friends and I've been dying to go back. We arrived in Santiago and went straight out to the coast and drove down the coast for about six hours, which is only one-tenth of Chile's coastline. It's huge, this crazy amount of coastline, the snow covered Andes, then coastal mountains, the plains in between are amazing, it's just really a beautiful place.

Best meal you've encountered that you still dream about?

One meal I'm constantly reminded about is when I ate kangaroo tail in the desert in Australia, it wasn't necessarily my favorite, but I will always remember it.

The best meal I've had was in Tavarua, an island in Fiji. It was just before sunset,
a bunch of guys had just caught all this yellow fin tuna; they literally brought this huge wooden table down to the sand, pulled the tuna from the boat, dropped it on top of the table, pulled the skin off and sliced the tuna up. We had a big bowl of soy sauce and wasabi -- and we just ate huge chunks of this beautiful red tuna dipped in soy sauce -- it was like eating butter.

What do you always pack and bring with you?

Music is always something I bring with me when I travel. I pack my iPod, a good pair of headphones, and I always have my journal and bring an old Polaroid camera with me. The camera comes in handy when I stay at people's houses, throughout the course of the trip I'll shoot some cool photos and at end, I make that photo into something for them. There's something really nice about an instant photo, I like giving them to people to thank them for having me, it always makes a nice present.


Worst travel experience?

I was traveling with my two kids, we were in Japan en route to Singapore and they both caught a crazy flu virus. Both of them were throwing up, it was horrible -- they were so young, and the topper was we had to fly from Singapore to Mauritius and our flight was delayed and they were going to put us up in a hotel, they put us on shuttle buses, we drove like 45 minutes bumpy, dirt roads my daughter just looked at me, I held my shirt out and she threw up and just sat there with her, we had to ride it out.

Biggest packing mistake?

I'm pretty simple, I usually just bring the basics some t-shirts, shorts, something for rain. I try to wear warm clothes on the flight, usually the bulky stuff like jeans, and a sweatshirt. If I forget socks I'm pretty shattered, especially on a plane.

What is the worst hotel you've stayed in?

Probably Motel 6 at Pismo beach. I was about 19 or 20 years old, I was out there for a surf contest, rooms were $19.99, single bed in a little corner, dark, and not necessarily great.

You're currently in. ...What are your local favorites?

I'm home in San Diego, basically within a mile of my house I have everything I could possibly need. My two favorite surf spots Cardiff reef and seaside are just a mile down road and up the street and I have 7-11 for those late night Ben and Jerry's runs, VG Donuts, and Seaside Market. There's a new spot that I'm at everyday now, Sambazon Acai Café, and next door to that is East Coast Pizza where I get my slice fix. My favorite neighborhood dinner spots are Zenbu Sushi and Rimel's Rotisserie.

Through your travels, have you connected with a specific charity or cause?

I've always been a big supporter of the Surfrider Foundation. I started my own foundation, Rob Machado Foundation, which focuses on Environmental education for the little people of the world. We work with the elementary school up street doing recycling and gardening programs; they actually grow their own veggies and sell them to Zen Bu Sushi restaurant.

If you can only choose one magazine from the airport kiosk, what magazine do you grab?

I usually go for Rolling Stone.

Wednesday, April 13th Bloomingdale's Santa Monica is celebrating the launch of an exclusive collection to benefit Surfrider Foundation hosted by Rob Machado and Hayden Panettiere.

Rob and his band, Melali Sessions Band, will play The Troubadour on Thursday, April 14th at 8pm with special guests. Tickets $12