If there’s one thing surf culture has properly nailed, it’s the multi-gen dynasty.
From The Hos; legendary stalwarts of the North Shore, to multi-craft Aussie style masters the Youngs, there are loads of surfing families that offer ample proof, when it comes to talent and influence, the apple rarely falls far from the tree.
In the realm of boardsports in general, no family has had a more profound impact than the Fletchers, who, across 4 generations, have reshaped the fabric of their respective disciplines multiple times over the course of the last half-century.
Their wide-reaching influence is one of the central themes of Heavy Water, the new Nathan Fletcher biopic we’re currently touring around the UK. In it, director Michael Oblowitz digs deep into how the Fletcher family tree has shaped the life of Nathan. Here we thought we’d provide a little background by introducing the various manifestations of the Fletcher DNA, beginning way back with Nathan’s grandad, Walter Hoffman- and extending all the way to his nephew Greyson Fletcher.
Walter Hoffman (Nathan’s grandad):
After growing up in Hollywood in the 40’s, Walter, quickly became a mainstay of the Malibu crew who shaped the sport after world war two. In 1948 he took his maiden trip to Hawaii, joining local surfer George Downing, on his very first day on the island, out at 10 foot Diamond Head. In 1951 he was stationed at Pearl Harbour and quickly became a leading light in the newly emerging big wave scene. He was reportedly one of the only non-locals to be accepted by the local crew, after he befriended Duke Kahanamoku.
He would later become the first ever white member of the beach boys at Waikiki. By 1953, he was charging 15-foot waves at Makaha and setting the bar during solid days at Sunset. After getting married and moving back to California, Herbie took over California Fabrics from his father, steering the company to become the leading textile provider to biggest surf brands of the day. In the following years, Hoffman coached his step-daughter Joyce to becoming the first women to ever surf Pipeline, and subsequently taking out two surfing world championships. His other step-daughter Dibi was a little more rebellious…
Dibi Hoffman (Nathan’s mum):
Dibi grew up on the beach in San Clemente, surrounded by some of the 60’s surf culture’s most iconic figures. Legendary blank manufacturer ‘Grubby’ lived right next door and a constant stream of folk would pass through his doors, including Hobie Alter (shaper and inventor of the Hobie Cat), Endless Summer star Phil Edwards and surfer magazine founder John Severson.
After spending her early teenage years hoisted above the heads of her dad’s friends in tandem surf comps, when Dibi turned 14 she decided she’d had enough. “If I’m going to have a guy’s head between my legs,” she remembers thinking, “at least I’m going to pick the guy.” “I didn’t think tandem surfing was so great, so I got out.” she recounts in an interview with Juice Magazine. “Then I started getting loaded and going to the surf contests and hanging out.”
Later that same year she met Herbie Fletcher and the pair dropped out of school and ran away to Hawaii. In 1970, while still living on the North Shore they popped out their first son, Christian. When he hit schooling age, they decided to move back to California. “I just thought it would be better.” she reflects to Juice mag. “In hindsight, was it better? I don’t know.” In 1975, their second son Nathan came along and a year after, with mouths to feed, they took over a small traction pad company, which would go on to become the legendary ‘Astrodeck’. The couple still run the company to this day with Dibi taking care of the day to day runnings. Nowadays Dibi also dedicates herself wholeheartedly to a variety of creative pursuits, including consulting on tv shows, painting and writing.
Herbie Fletcher (Nathan’s dad):
Herbie Fletcher grew up surfing and skating in Huntington beach in the early 60’s. In 1963 he was photographed skating in an empty backyard pool in what has since become recognised as the earliest ever example of pool skating, captured a full decade before the dog town crew took up the mantle. Aged 16 Herbie left his childhood home and headed for Hawaii, where he moved into the back of Dewey Weber’s rusted Cadalic, which was permanently parked at Vals’s reef. By the following year he was turning heads with standout performances at Sunset and Honolua bay and in ‘66 he was invited to star in Greg Mcgillivray’s film Free and Easy.
After going quiet for a decade, he re-emerged in the 1970’s as a protagonist in longboarding’s first major post-shortboard revolution resurgence. By the end of the decade, he’d founded Herbie Fletcher surfboards, started Astrodeck and fathered sons Christian and Nathan. In the 80’s, Herbie began pushing the limits of wave riding using motorised craft, riding Malai Bay on Maui on a jet ski in 84, and instigating the first ever solid wave tow session with Martin Potter, Tom Carroll and Michael Ho at Pipe in 87. He also took up tools as a filmmaker, putting out the iconic Wave Warriors series.
Over the preceding decades, Herbie would go on to make countless more surfing films, including various high-performance aerial flicks that served as marketing for Astrodeck and dozens of longboard films. Alongside Dibi, he continues to surf, film and work on Astrodeck to this day.
Christian Fletcher (Nathan’s brother):
Christian was born in Hawaii but grew up in San Clemente in beachside surf shacks. He began surfing competitively aged 5, dropped out of school age 15 to surf in comps but became bored with the format almost instantly, electing instead to focus on bringing skateboard moves into the sea. His approach paved the way for modern high-performance airs, introducing many of the grabs and technical flourishes we still see today. In 1988 he landed covers of both Surfer and Surfing magazine boosting big airs, upsetting a group of ASP pros who derided above the lip surfing as a gimmick.
In 1990 these disgruntled world tour pro wrote a letter to Surfer magazine, complaining about the amount of coverage Fletcher was receiving. “It’s quite unfair to dedicate yourself to the sport” it read, “train hard and travel around the world, only to pick up a magazine and see a guy who spent his summer at Trestles on the cover and in the centre spread.”
Later that same year Christian retired from conventional competition in a blaze of glory, after hurling a blueberry muffin at a judges head after being underscored for an air. As the 90’s wore on, Christian’s life spiralled and by the middle of the decade, he was divorced and homeless with a serious drug habit. “I’d soak crack rocks in PCP, smoke weed with acid, shoot heroin and coke together,” he once recounted of his headiest days. After a brief period of sobriety in 1997, he won the Surfing Magazine Airshow tour. Since the early 2000’s Christian has been living a quieter life in California, focussed largely around nurturing the skating career of his son Greyson…
Greyson Fletcher (Nathan’s nephew):
As Herbie Fletcher points out in a short for Vice, Greyson Fletcher might be the only third generation pool skater on earth. He’s been revered for his style and spontaneity in the world of skateboarding since a very young age, picking up multiple sponsorships, including Hawk clothing before he even entered his teenage years. However, unlike the generations before him, a love for surfing didn’t come until later in life. After his parents divorced, Greyson moved in with his mum in Anaheim Hills, California, which sits miles from the coast,
It wasn’t until 2011, when he moved back to San Clemente to live with his Dibi and Herbie, that he developed a love for surfing. “When he came to live with us, I said dude, you’ve really got to get your surfing going,” explains Dibi to Vice. “It’s kind of a science how to create a good surfer, and I think Herb and I really know that drill.” Nowadays, when he’s not skating, or away competing at the X Games or Dew Tour, Greyson can be found popping airs in a San Clemente shorey or hanging out at John John’s on the north shore.