by Corky Carroll
I first became aware of Herbie Fletcher back in High School in Huntington Beach. He was a hot young up and coming surfer a grade or two younger than I was. I recruited him to surf on the Hobie Surf Team and got him set up with free boards. At that time it would have been impossible to predict exactly how far the kid was going to go, but he was super likeable, really could surf and was very enthusiastic about it. Looking back at his transformation from then to now is remarkable, what an amazing journey.
The very short version, just to set the basics down, is that Herbie moved to the North Shore of Oahu, married Dibi, the daughter of the infamous “Godfather of Surfing,” Walter Hoffman, made a name for himself for his free flowing, side slipping and very individualistic style of surfing, came back to California and went on to open “Astrodeck,” the leading producer of surfboard deck pads. He produced, and stared in, a number of surfing videos and had a couple sons, Christian and Nathan, who have become outstanding and groundbreaking surfers in their own right. Dibi herself is an amazing artist and her influence rubbed off on Herbie who also went in that direction. To get more on the background please check out my story from 2014, https://www.ocregister.com/2014/10/21/corky-carroll-sharing-a-story-of-the-herbie-fletcher-i-know/
Which brings us to now and the reason for todays revisit to the wonderful wild world of things Fletcher. Dibi has put the whole story down in ink and her new book, “Fletcher, a lifetime in surf,” has just been released by Rizzoli. In conjunction with the release of the book the Gallery Gagosian, in New York City, is presenting an exhibition of Fletcher family art, sculptures and photos, and will sell items, including t-shirts, in their 976 Madison Avenue on site store. The exhibition just opened and is attracting tons of viewers from all walks of life. One of these is renowned artist Julian Schnabel, who had this to say, “The practice of the artist . . . is no different than that of the surfer, who inscribes his or her self in the ocean--a bigger canvas could not be engaged, defining their humanity in the most personal way, using themselves to draw their lifelines through the massive fleeting freedom of that power. The power and majesty of the sea—Herbie shared that with me and with my family as well as his own.”
I have always been amazed at how Herbie just always seems to find his way into stuff. He just, for lack of better words, “goes for it.” It’s like when he was pioneering the use of Jet Skis in giant surf. He would just stick himself into a monster beast and hold on for dear life. Amazed onlookers would be shaking their heads in disbelief and uttering stuff like “Wow, did YOU SEE THAT?” He just does stuff, and gets away with it. And, obviously, so does his wife and kids.
Along with the exhibition there will be showings of the 2019 Documentary “Heavy Water.” This film is about the insane HUGE wave surfing by Nathan Fletcher, the younger of the two sons. Christian, the older one, was at the vanguard of bringing in the age of “ariel” surfing. I remember standing on the beach at the San Clemente Pier watching him, Matt Archibald and Dino Andino blasting big airs off the top of close out beach crunchers way back when they were young teenagers in the early 1980’s and thinking, “well, this is the future happening right here.”
So yeah, back on the hill next to the snack bar at Huntington Beach High School, sitting there with Denny Buell, Robert August and the crew checking out John Boozers new light blue windbreaker and commenting on how good the grems were getting, that would have been the likes of Herbie, Jon Overmyer, Buddy Heil and Tom Leonardo, never in our wildest imagination would we have pegged Herbie to forge so many frontiers. But he did, and is, and will be one of the most multi-faceted and uniquely imaginative surfers ever.
For more information on the Gagosian exhibition go to https://gagosian.com/exhibitions/2019/the-fletcher-family-a-lifetime-in-surf/
Congratulations Fletchers, you have done it again.