Rather than rest on his laurels after a highly successful career on the ASP World Championship Tour, iconic surfer Rob Machado has taken on humanitarian projects that have seen him digging wells in the far reaches of Indonesia to distributing water filters in favelas on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. And while his efforts are broad, they always seem to center around water, which may be what has inspired his newest video series, “Through the Lens.” In the most recent episode (see below), Machado visits with world-renowned chef Alex Atala in Brazil. We caught up with the guru of surf style to hear more about his project.
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You've taken on a numerous projects since retiring from the ASP World Tour and they all seem to revolve around water. Why is that?
Water is life. I think it really hits home when you watch that piece [his most recent episode] and hear Alex Atala talk about the importance of water, especially for him. It's where his food comes from; it's really everything.
How did you get to know Alex Atala and how did the idea for the trip come about?
The way we pick every episode of “Through the Lens” is that we choose a place, start reaching out to all of our friends, and go from there. We're looking for passionate, interesting people who have similar kinds of beliefs. It always seems to come back to water, whether it's surfing or just the pure love of water. Basically, there are a lot of cool people doing really cool stuff, and if you reach out, they're not too hard to find.
What really struck me about the video was the importance of water. It's involved in every single thing we do as humans. Did you realize that before you took on this project?
For myself, it got started when I was in Indonesia. I spent the better part of a year there when I was filming “The Drifter.” For part of that time I was on the island of Sumba where there's an extreme lack of clean water. I got involved with this guy Claude who used to run Nihiwatu resort and who had a program that dug wells and built schools for local villages. I helped build a few wells, and that was pretty eye-opening. It's a different world out there—a lot of people don't have access to clean water. For me, that's where it really got started.
What hit you the hardest when visiting the Brazilian favelas?
It's the most radical place I've ever been. If you and I had to live there for a week, I don't know how we'd survive. It's so heavy—they basically live among trash. The favela we went to is like an offshoot of the main Rio de Janeiro city dump. There's raw sewage spilling into dirt pathways, little kids running around in diapers; it's just radical that humans can live there. I mean, the smell alone…
On a lighter note, I'm assuming your hair was a great icebreaker … people seem to love your hair!
Oh yeah, it's definitely a good icebreaker. When I let the hair down and it starts blowing in the wind kids start laughing and stuff. It's good to have something like that.
What's next for “Through the Lens” and Rob Machado?
We just shot the next episode in New York with Mike D from the Beastie Boys. We did a cool little deal with him between there and California, kind of like a little insight into his world.
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