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California pro surfer Rob Machado is involved in many things – film, music, surfboard design, charity work and, you know, appearing alongside models in Vogue. But the long-locked surfer always has time for San Diego’s North County waves.

“Cardiff-by-the-Sea is home and always will be,” says Machado, whose career highlights include a dozen World Championship Tour victories and induction into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame.

So while his work continues to take him around the world – a video project called Through the Lens, for instance, documents creative types connected to surfing – here he turns his lens on five places he’d send a traveller in and around San Diego.


“Roberto’s is definitely one of my favourite all-time Mexican spots. There’s a ton of good Mexican food in San Diego, but Roberto’s is a must-try. The bean and cheese burritos are my go-to, simple but outstanding. Roberto’s is simple, outdoor seating, so you can just sit and chill, enjoy the weather. Doesn’t get any better.” 445 North Highway 101, Solana Beach;

Swami's Beach. (Visit San Diego)

Swami’s beach

“Swami’s, in the beach town of Encinitas, is a great place if you’re just starting to surf, but it’s still one of my favourites. The waves are always fun and easy, but even with some skill under your belt, I think it’s just one of those spots that’s great. The waves are small, but then it requires less thinking so it’s just pure fun.” 1298 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas;

Belly Up

“The Belly Up Tavern is one of the best venues for music not just in San Diego, but in the world. It’s a place that has such a good feeling: You walk in and can feel the history in every aspect. On top of that, I’ve seen such a variety of singers and musicians there, from Jimmy Cliff and Ben Harper to local newcomers like Austin Burns. I host my Rob Machado Foundation Benefit Concerts there as well. It’s just such a cool spot that’s so consistent for good music.” 143 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach;

Cardiff, San Diego County. (Visit San Deigo)

Seaside Reef

“Seaside Reef, just south of Cardiff, is … a perfect representation of the San Diego vibe. The parking lot has good vibes. The beach is great for all-day hanging. You see all your buddies or make new ones and, of course, the waves are good. It’s a good spot because the waves change a bit so you get variety, which can be hard to come by. It’s one of the special places that you never get tired of.” For directions:


“If I want to be a little cleaner with my snack … Sambazon Acai Café is my favourite spot for acai bowls. It’s one of my favourite after-surf refreshments, because it does everything: It gives you energy, it’s filling, it’s a great way to get a ton of superfoods into your body.” 2031 San Elijo Ave., Cardiff-by-the-Sea;

This interview has been edited and condensed.