A Winning Weekend: Padres, Aztecs, and Surfing

Rob Machado All Smiles
Rob Machado is all smiles after some big San Diego wins.

Over the weekend, San Diego sports tallied a couple of big wins with the Padres claiming their first victory of the new season and the SDSU men’s basketball team defeating Florida Atlantic University at the buzzer to advance out of the Final Four and into the national championship game for the first time in school history.

They play tonight at 6:20pm where they’ll take on UCONN.  

If you missed it, the buzzer beater by SDSU’s Lamont Butler was one of those shots that you dream of making as a kid playing basketball in the driveway.  We’re going to see replays of it for many, many years to come. 


A San Diego State Miracle!

Another big win for San Diego sports came during the WSL Championship Tour’s last stop at Supertubos in Peniche, Portugal for Oceanside local, Caitlin Simmers. At just 17 years old, Simmers snagged her first tour victory, besting veteran Courtney Conologue in the finals. It was Simmers’ third CT event ever. Simmers qualified for the Tour last year when she was 16, but decided to defer it a year as she didn’t feel she was quite ready. Now, she’s eyeing a World Title – and she’s got a real shot. She’s a killer in the water!

There’s one other San Diego surfer currently on the World Tour in Jake Marshall, the 24-year old from Encinitas. Jake, who grew up surfing Seaside Reef, has yet to notch a tour victory on his belt, and currently sits at #27 in the world. He needs a couple of results on the Australian leg to cushion up his ranking and avoid the dreaded mid-season cut. The waiting period for Bells opened today to another dismal forecast, which seems to be the trend this year. After Bells, they go to Western Australia to surf Margaret River.

With all of the deep-rooted history of surfing in San Diego, it’s a wonder that we’ve never had a World Champion on the shortboarding side.  

Joel Tudor, however, on the longboarding side, is a 3x World Champ. He won his first title in 1998, then again in 2004. His third came in 2021 at the age of 45.

Taylor Knox was born in Ventura, California but moved to Carlsbad when he was thirteen.  The hard-carving pro’s highest year-end result was #4 in the world in 2001. 

San Diego’s greatest shot at a World Title was in 1995 in Hawaii.  You probably know where I’m going with this, but it all came down to a simple slap of the hands.  A high five between Cardiff’s Rob Machado and Kelly Slater in the semifinals of the Pipe Masters. 

Back when the tour schedule ended in Hawaii (as it should be), the title was to be decided at the last event of the year at the most brutal and mesmerizing break in the world: Pipeline.

After points leader Sunny Garcia took an early second round exit to Occy, Machado had to beat Slater to win the title. It’s been well documented and discussed to death over the years, but after getting spit out of a tube going left, Machado, instead of kicking out and gaining priority, opted to cutback and glide by Slater for a high-five.

Many have theorized it was another one of Slater’s jedi mind tricks, something he’s become known for amongst competitors – but he denies that.

Sunny Garcia said he would have run Kelly over if he were in the same situation.

Kelly won the heat and his third world title. He would go on to win three more consecutively. Rob never won a title, and the now-infamous high five seemed to haunt him a bit after the unrelenting press surrounding it.

Following a hand injury in 2001, Rob failed to win the necessary votes for the injury wildcard and fell off tour.

There were some dark days to follow, chronicled in HBO’s Momentum Generation. Rob was able to pull himself up and had a string of successful films with Taylor Steele, paving the way as one of the first professional free surfers.

Although I wish Rob had won a title, and it bothers me that he doesn’t (I’m a big legacy guy!), Rob Machado is still the greatest surfer to ever come out of San Diego.

And that is a big WIN.

Father, surfer, poet.


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