INTERVIEW BY STEVE OLSON
INTRODUCTION BY STEVE OLSON
PHOTO BY HERBIE FLETCHER
High . . .This is Christian Fletcher, maybe you know of him, and then again, maybe you don’t. So what. The kid knows a thing or two, about a thing or two. Fletcher seems the type to say, “This is it, like it or not . . .” – S.O.
What is your name?
Christian Fletcher. I was named after Fletcher Christian from Mutiny on the Bounty. My parents thought it was all funny and stuff so that’s what they named me. I guess the joke is on them. They’re not laughing so much any more.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Hawaii, but I grew up in San Clemente, CA.
Then from there?
I went to Costa Mesa and now I live in Los Angeles about thirty minutes away from the beach.
Do you surf more now than ever?
Yeah, I had to move away from the beach to become a surfer again. I leave the house at dark and come home after dark.
How many days do you surf each week?
I usually surf at least five days a week.
Do you have sponsors?
Yeah, I have a couple of sponsors: Third Rail, Swatch, Vans, and Spankys.
What is Spankys?
It’s a porn shop in Santa Ana open 24-hours-a-day. It’s on First and Harbor.
And do they pay you?
They give me an account so I can get whatever I want; presents for my friends and my friend’s girlfriends.
When did you start surfing?
I can’t exactly pinpoint when I started but I won my first contest at five years old.
Who was your dad?
Father – Herbie Fletcher; aunt – Joyce Hoffman, four time World Champion; grandfather – Walter Hoffman, two-time Tandem Champion at Makaha – 1958 and 1959; and my brother Nathan. His surfing speaks for itself.
What? I had a surfboard that was made by Joyce Hoffman.
Yeah. That’s cool. So, you won your first contest at the age of five so you started surfing somewhere before that.
Yeah, learning to walk and surf was like the same kind of thing.
And you were born in Hawaii?
Yeah, and the first two years I lived there, Dad shaped boards so I had boards when I was born. I was born with a board.
Did you start skateboarding at the same time?
Pretty much. I have pictures carving the park in Carlsbad in ‘75, hanging out with Mike Weed and my Dad.
Wow, that’s a name from the past. So, you started surfing and skating. What about snowboarding?
I grew up skiing. I lived in Sun Valley for two winters, when I was three and four. And dad would take me up there. But I quit at age 12 because I was over skiing and I was into surfing and skating. And I figured with snowboarding, it was already there, but you weren’t allowed to do it anywhere without any hassle. I figured I’d just wait until you were able to do it everywhere. I knew it was going to be big one day.
Who did you grow up with?
I grew up with Jason Jessee. We were best friends.
From when we were 10 years old until now. We learned how to ollie together on skateboards and we’d go surfing together and my Dad would take us to the Big O every weekend.
Yeah, he’s been surfing since he was a kid. He’s such a bad ass.
You went to Big O every weekend?
And we’d skate and listen to Devo and the B-52s. It was fun.
And what about your mom?
Mom’s an artist.
You grew up around a family that did a lot of stuff.
Yeah, my Dad was a sports dad. He’d have me out at the pier, and he would be yelling, “Paddle, paddle!”
Your dad was a pretty rowdy guy.
My Dad was an innovator. I had a lot of respect for him. And he was always super cool. When I was 12 and everyone was telling me not to do aerials, Dad told me to keep doing what I was doing.
Why were they telling you that?
A lot of people were telling me to concentrate on my turns and not on the aerials and my Dad said to keep doing what came natural.
When did you bust your first aerial surfing?
I think I was twelve years old.
Did you bust air skating or surfing first?
Skateboarding, because we’d get air at the Capsule and the Clover and the Keyhole. I thought handplants were the coolest thing in the world. I had to learn them. You couldn’t do that on a wave unless you could find a rock or something.
When you started doing airs in surfing, people were telling you not to do it and now aerials are a big part of surfing and skating.
I remember in 1988 in Hawaii, Davey Miller was in my car and we were going to the Haleiwa Surf Challenge and he was like, “You’ve got to get back to the basics, you got to work on your turns.” And that summer in California I won that contest at Trestles. It was the most money ever won surfing.
How much did you win?
$31,000 or something like that.
How did that feel?
I had mixed emotions. One of my best friends had come over to surf the contest and he died the day before.
How did that happen?
It was a drinking and driving accident; Justin Roberson. I knew him from Hawaii. Our parents knew each other growing up. So I surfed all the way through the event and won. I even quit drinking for a year after that. It was happy but sad at the same time. But it was the only contest I ever took seriously because I don’t know how to take them that seriously.
And you have a younger brother?
Yeah, Nathan Walter Fletcher.
Is he following in your footsteps?
Yeah. He tried his best not to but he ended up doing it anyway. He hated everything I stood for.
What did he hate?
He hated my music. He hated the way I acted. He hated everything about me. But he finally became Nathan and he’s not Herbie’s kid or Christian’s brother. He grew up and he’s stoked on himself.
So you grew up with a family that had a lot of love?
Yeah, my parents are still together after all these years. Since before I was born. Everyone thinks it’s easy, but life is tough.
It’s hard to stay together.
It’s unbelievable. It’s hard enough sometimes to stay with yourself.
My parents are celebrating their 46th anniversary.
My parents just had their 31st last December.
That’s remarkable. What music are you into?
I grew up on classic rock. My cousin was Marty Hoffman and he listened to the Sex Pistols and stuff like that so I was turned on to punk rock at about the age of six. From there it went from classic rock to punk rock and new wave. I liked the angry stuff like Black Flag and speed metal like Slayer, then death metal like Deicide and Napalm Death. I used to be really opinionated and now I like everything.
Do you like rap?
I like the Geto Boyz. I’m a huge Bushwick motherfuckin’ Bill fan. I met Ice-T at the Vans Park opening. I said “Where’s Bushwick?” He said, “I don’t know.”
What about hip hop?
I just can’t get into it.
What about techno music?
I like some techno – mixed with grind core. As long as it’s angry I like it. I don’t like any poppy drum stuff.
You don’t like Blink 182?
Some of it’s kind of funny, but for the most part they’re too happy for me.
You grew up surfing and skating and then you started surfing more?
Well, they closed all the skateparks in ‘82. My parents were like, “You’ve got to make a choice.” Both of my parents were high school drop-outs and so they knew how to make a living through surfing. So I got expelled from elementary school and Jason moved, so we didn’t get to hang out as much. He got more involved with skateboarding and I got super involved with surfing. We started hanging out again when we were 17.
What year was that?
1987. He was a pro skater and I was a pro surfer. We had both been voted “least likely to succeed” in the sixth grade.
Did you drop out after sixth grade?
No, I waited until ninth grade and so did he, I think. So, we made a trip to see our sixth grade teacher, who was always a jerk. And here we were 16, and making a ton of money. So we went back and found him. He was the type of teacher that would sit in the parking lot in his car during break drinking alcohol and smoking cigars with the windows rolled up. We were like, “What’s up now?” We hassled the fuck out of him. And then the next year he died. We were like, “Oh, fuck.”
You have great memories of hanging out with Jason?
Oh, yeah, great ones. Dad’s got a bunch of old 8mm film of us skating Big O, but he can’t find it.
Do you think you had an advantage growing up with a family that was so behind their kids?
Yeah, that was the thing. My dad was always too behind us. It had a lot of pluses and a lot of minuses. I surfed some of the best spots in the world when I was a little kid. My Dad would take me. He always thought it was important to have a good backside. Most people like to go frontside. My Dad would take me and my brother surfing in Australia and we’d say, “Why can’t we go somewhere where there are lefts?” and he’d say, “I’m not spending all this money to go backside.” He’d always snake us no matter where we went. He’d drop in and not even be cool about it. He’d smash our rails and knock us off and you had to deal with it. You had to maneuver, and learn to deal with the crowds. And he was part owner of Gerry’s House in Hawaii when I was 12.
Yeah, so I stayed there in the winter, skipped school and surfed Pipeline with Dad and Gerry.
Did you ever get hassled?
No, not by any of the Hawaiian guys, they were always super cool. I just had problems with a few of the pros that came through like Richie Collins.
Yeah. He was like my nemesis my whole life. I get along with him great nowadays but his dad ripped me off my surfboard by my head before.
Yeah, he snaked me and he was going to do it again so I paddled over and snaked him. After watching him run this guy over and that guy over, I snaked him and faded him a couple of times and rail smashed him and knocked him off his board. He paddled straight in and didn’t say a word. And then ripped me off my surfboard by my head and said, “Who’s laughing now, huh?” People didn’t say stuff to me, they’d call my Dad and tattle on me instead. And now you’re getting into the minuses. Everything that I did reflected on my parent’s business. For instance, Pat O’Connell (we’re buddies now) said in Surfer Magazine how I was a Satan worshipper and I had upside down Jewish stars on my surfboard and stuff. I don’t know how he got an upside down Jewish star – I had a pentagram on my board. He said that in a random interview and all these shops called my parents and said they were never going to buy our products again. That would never have happened if my parents weren’t in the industry.
Did that affect your relationship with your Dad?
Yeah, my Dad got straight pissed off because I was taking money out of his pocket indirectly. If I snaked someone in the water or got in a hassle with somebody or said stuff in an interview, it would reflect on my Dad’s business and he would get really pissed off. That really sucked.
He also did films?
Yeah, he’s done movies since we were kids.
And he was one of the first dudes to ride an empty swimming pool?
Yes. He’s got a photo of him carving the Pool barefoot in 1963. He was on the Jack Haley Surf Team. I found the picture a few years back at his Dad’s house and had it framed and gave it to him for Christmas. It’s cool as fuck.
What are the other minuses?
Growing up, people would say stuff like, “You’re nothing. The only reason you got anything is because of your dad. You never won a contest.” But when it came down to it they were sitting on the beach while I was out at Pipeline getting barreled. So, it was like, “If you want to talk shit, you should be able to back it up”.
So you grew up surfing in San Clemente. Who did you surf with?
I mostly surfed with people that were surfing for fun. I would travel with Dino and I would travel with Archy. I mostly traveled with Dino, because I was a stoner and Dino was a stoner. Archy was a little straighter (when he was young), so we were on a different wavelength. I grew up with those guys and Joe and Terrence McNulty, Archy and Strider. They were my favorite friends to surf with because it was never about competition. We just went surfing whether it was big or small and always had a great time.
And you’re still friends?
Yeah. We’re all still good friends. Archy is rad. He’s one of my best friends in the business. And he’s been through some hardships too. Now that we’re both older we have more in common and we get along great.
It’s seems like now surfing is taking from skateboarding?
Yes, definitely. I remember when Barton Lynch was the World Champion. Well, Cheyne Horan was the first skateboard champion in Australia. And Barton Lynch did an interview where he said, “Surfing doesn’t relate to skateboarding in any way, shape or form.” That’s a direct quote. Shit like that sticks in my head and it just bummed me out completely. I was like, “What the fuck is he talking about?” The surfers were the first skateboarders. They didn’t call it sidewalk surfing for nothing.
Now it’s like surfing doesn’t have anything to do with skateboarding.
Skateboarding progressed by leaps and bounds. And in surfing, the last big invention was the thruster in ‘81.
But skateboarding hasn’t really progressed in the evolution of the boards, but the moves have gotten crazy.
Well, it got really separated for awhile. Surfers didn’t really skateboard. They were afraid to get hurt or something. But now, kids do everything. They skate and surf. Things are changing.