Visiting Machu Picchu in the mountains of Peru, Rob Machado is constantly being approached for photos. Tourists from around the world forget the temples and flock to the ‘fro. Hundreds of miles from the ocean, in another language and completely out of context, he remains instantly recognizable.
Yes, it’s the hair. The ‘fro. The loaf. The mop. A dangling jungle it has become. The fluffy puff we grew up on. Even that one time he cut it clean and short, the very absence of the ‘fro was like a ghost ‘fro of itself. There was no stopping it. And the ‘fro grew back the very next day.
It has been immortalized on Hollywood penguins, in Taylor Steele skits and by comic book superheroes (remember Zen-Fro?). It is the laid-back antithesis to The Champ’s competitive shine; a carefree mop that doesn’t even remember second place. Instead, it forms its own ZIP code of ad pages, photo spreads and video sections. A billboard. A sasquatch. An icon. Inescapable. Unnamable. Absolute ’fro-ness. It runs charities. Oversees foundations. Shelters small animals. And it surfs real good, too.
Lest we forget, anyone can farm up a crop of hair (OK, almost anyone). But crop the mop from any photo of Machado and you’d still recognize that style anywhere. Rob was the next Gerry Lopez before he hit puberty. Stylish, laid-back and smooth. He was always destined for greatness – the ’fro was just a groupie. But it grew on us the way it grew on him, until we couldn’t remember a time when it wasn’t part of our lives. Part of surfing. A comic book here. A Taylor Steele skit there. Cartoon penguins on the big screen. People march right up to it like they’re old friends. “Remember me, Rob’s hair?”
Yes, Rob’s hair does remember you. It remembers us all. —Nathan Myers