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Machado Gets to Stay Close to Home

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Even among surfers, Rob Machado stands out as extremely relaxed. He’s also a right-foot first surfer, or goofy footer, in a crowd of lefties.

But what really singles him out is the speed with which he has moved to the top of the sport. Machado, 20, began surfing professionally two years ago and earned rookie of the year honors in 1992. In 1993, he became U.S. Surfing champion.

Machado, already considered a contender for the 1994 world championship title, enters Wednesday’s Body Glove Oceanside surf contest as a local and a favorite.

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Machado grew up in Cardiff and learned to surf in and around Oceanside, but it’s not the homecourt advantage he’s excited about.

“The only advantage I’ll have is sleeping in my own bed,” he said. “I can just kick back and cruise up to the contest when I want.”

The Body Glove Oceanside is the sixth stop on the Bud Surf Tour, the national circuit that feeds the world tour. In a double-elimination format that culminates with finals Sunday, surfers will compete for $20,000 and 1,000 points on the world qualifying tour.

The top 16 surfers in points earned at the end of the year earn a spot on the World Championship Tour the next year. Many surfers, including Machado, compete on both levels.

With world tour dates in Australia, France, Brazil and Hawaii, and national tour dates in Hawaii, Virginia and all over the California coast, Machado spends little time at home.

“This is the longest I’ll be home for a while,” he said. “I’ll be home for a month. Usually I’m home for only a week or two.”

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Machado’s most recent trip was a 10-day stay on Habara Beach, Japan. Competing in the Marui Pro, the second stop of the 10-event tour, he scored his first world tour victory.

With $130,000 in purse money and former world champions Kelly Slater and Derek Ho in the water, it was clearly Machado’s biggest victory. And yet he’s not feeling any pressure to repeat.

Each day of the five-day Oceanside contest, he’ll leave his parents’ house in Cardiff an hour or 1 1/2 hours before he needs to be in the water. He’ll arrive at the beach near the Oceanside pier, survey the scene, surf his heat and head home.

“I’m just looking forward to enjoying myself,” he said. “I think competition is something you can do for the wrong reasons. The whole reason I started surfing was to enjoy myself.”

Success must have been merely a side effect.

“I just got lucky,” he said of the Marui Pro, and while it might be true, it’s not the whole story.

Machado is known for generating amazing speed in small waves. He’s at his best when the surf is less than four feet. The final day in Japan, the surf was exactly that--four feet.

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The conditions: Sean Collins of Surfline-Wavetrack, the industry’s leading wave forecaster, expects surf at Oceanside to be in the waist-to-shoulder-high range, or two to four feet.

“Right now it looks like small swells out of the southwest combining with the local northwest windswell,” Collins said, adding that when there is one pure swell direction in Oceanside, the waves come in lines, which tends to favor goofy footers.

“We will have a little bit of windswell, lefts are going to be the favorite wave out there,” he said.

Said Machado: “It’s a really good site for a contest. It’s a beach break, and any kind of swell will get in there pretty good.”

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The competition: Machado’s main rivalry will come from his friends, as it often does. Taylor Knox of Carlsbad, Chris Brown of Santa Barbara, Dino Andino of San Clemente, Pat O’Connell of Laguna Niguel, Richie Collins of Newport Beach and Jeff Booth of Laguna Beach also are expected to surf.

“I’m probably friends with half the guys I’m surfing against,” Machado said. “But you just surf the heat, and when you’re on the beach, whatever happened is over.”

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Brown, currently the points leader on the domestic tour, won the Oceanside event last year, defeating Machado in the finals. Booth won the 1991 and 1992 events and the 1987 Oceanside as an amateur.

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Up the beach: While spectators watch the final rounds of surfing Saturday and Sunday in Oceanside, farther north women will be competing in the Reebok Hermosa Beach Open as part of the Women’s Pro Beach Volleyball tour.

The double-elimination event in Hermosa and the tournament in Sacramento the next weekend were expected to decide who would compete in the Goodwill Games, July 23 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

But because of visa requirements, the deadline for naming players was moved to June 22 and now there is little question who will go.

Karolyn Kirby and Liz Masakayan, who won the Hermosa Beach Open last year, have won five of the six 1994 WPVA tour events, and finished second in the other. With 460 points, they are 64 points ahead of their nearest competitors.

Barbra Fontana and Lori Kotas-Forsythe defeated Kirby/Masakayan on June 5 in the Myrtle Beach Open and finished second to the leaders in two other tournaments. Fontana/Kotas-Forsythe have 396 points, 40 more than the third-place team.

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In the Hermosa Open, now the final event before the deadline, players will earn one point for playing each game and two points for winning.

“I’ve been told the third-place team couldn’t possibly get enough points with just one event left,” Fontana said. “But that doesn’t make Hermosa a letdown in any way. I lived there for a number of years, and it’s just a great place to play.”

Fontana grew up in Manhattan Beach and played volleyball for Mira Costa High School. She was a four-year starter at Stanford and then earned a law degree at Santa Clara. She joined the WPVA tour in 1991 and became association president last year.

“The Goodwill Games are very exciting. I think all the athletes have their eyes on the international game,” Fontana said.

In 1993, Fontana and Kotas-Forsythe finished third in the world rankings established by the Federation Internationale de Volleyball of Lausanne, Switzerland (FIVB), which oversees the international game. Kirby and Masakayan were ranked first and a Brazilian team was second.

The two-day Hermosa Beach Open begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, with 32 teams competing for the $9,400 first-place money. Competition resumes at 8:30 a.m. Sunday and finals are scheduled for 3 p.m. Admission is free.

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