SURF SKATE STYLE WITH NATHAN FLETCHER. INTERVIEW BY DAN LEVY. PHOTOS BY HERBIE FLETCHER AND BRIAN BIELMANN.
Hey Nathan, what have you been up to?
Right now I’m driving around, but I’ve been going to the beach and skating and cruising and dealing with two small children.
I know that you’ve had your kids out skating with you. That’s awesome.
Yeah. We take them around. I don’t know what to do with them. It’s trippy.
That’s so cool. Well, we’re doing a surf skate style story, and I just wanted to say that the interview Jay Adams did with you was one of the last ones he did and we were so stoked to have you in the mag.
I remember that day totally. That was cool. Jay had nothing but cool things to say about you guys. It’s interesting because I think about Jay a lot. He was one of the best friends that I’ve had. I knew him well and he was a celebrity too, but definitely not to himself. I was just thinking the other day about how I miss him going around and taking photos with his phone. He was just being himself. So you guys are doing a story about style in surfing and skateboarding?
Yes. When did you first hear the words surf skate style?
At first, I heard it when I was a little kid, too young to go to the beach by myself, and I could do that at six. We would ride our skateboards in the front driveway, on one knee, to stand up on them. My brother was five years older than me, so I was just watching him and seeing that. We were trying to do little slashes on the driveway on skateboards like we were surfing. I didn’t know then that it was called surf skate style. We were just imitating surfing when we were skateboarding.
That’s perfect. Jay was always talking about surf skate style, so what does surf skate style mean to you?
For me, it’s what I have naturally because that’s who I am. In skateboarding, it used to be lame to have surf style when street skating came out, but now everything is cool. It’s just natural, powerful and raw. There was a point in time when surf skate style wasn’t cool, but in the last five or ten years, it’s come around, and now it’s really cool. Surfing is one line, so you come up and do a snap and now guys do airs. In skating a pool, you can come up and put it all into one grind and start getting air.
Why do you think it’s coming around?
Now it’s everything. It’s like it was with freestyle skateboarding. People used to skate on one flat area at the skatepark and other people were skating the keyhole and going crazy. All of a sudden, freestyle crossed over into street skating and it made street skating all technical and gnarly. It was one thing at one point and then it turned into something else. Then Danny Way took it all the way to the Mega Ramp. Now everything is out there. It’s progression. It’s more like a bowl riding style and it reflects an era of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s in skateboarding. It’s cool that it has crossed over because now there’s everything.
Do you think it has to do with all the skateparks there are now?
Oh yeah, because skateboarding used to be illegal. At one point, you were getting chased out of places for skateboarding and then it went to mini ramps and backyard pools. All of a sudden, you had Tony Hawk and then people started building all of these skateparks and dropping their kids off there. Now the skatepark kids are growing up at the parks. It’s all out there and it’s all good. It’s all happening.
Do you think you had much of a choice growing up whether you were going to be a surfer or a skateboarder?
Well, at one point in my life, I told my parents I was going to quit surfing, and they didn’t have any control of that. There was snowboarding and stuff, so I just bounced around and did my thing. They understood it, but they didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing either, but stuff was happening and I’d never seen it. It was at the time when snowboarding was just coming up and you had Eddie Reategui, Dave Duncan, Hosoi, Szabo and all these guys that would go up to Big Bear. Danny Way and skaters from down south would meet at the mountain and snowboard together. Now everyone is doing stuff and they all have their companies and it’s all dialed in. They’ve got equipment, ramps and parks. It’s just a trip.
That leads to the next question. How do you think that surfing has influenced skateboarding and vice versa?
It’s just progression. Everyone is cross training now. That’s one common thing that everybody has. It’s harder now because the level is so high in surfing and in skateboarding. Danny Way’s frontside McTwist is really similar to a rotation that you could do on a surfboard, but everything is moving surfing, so it’s different. It’s hard. Surfing is just really raw. Skateboarding is in a controlled environment. You come up to it and it’s right there and it’s like, boom, boom, boom. In surfing, you’re paddling out into the wilderness on your own shark bait waves, so there’s a lot going on. Another thing they have in common and how they influence each other is that it’s all about the adrenaline rush. You have to go get that fix in whatever you do. With skateboarding, some days you want to skate the Mega Ramp. With surfing, some days the swell is up and you want to go. It’s the adventure of it. That’s what kids have that grow up in the city and they get their rush from skating the streets. If you grow up on the beach, you get your rush from the ocean, and that’s what you do, and then you start traveling and get the thrill of life.
That’s a great answer. When you’re dropping in on a big wave, is there any parallel to dropping in on a vert ramp or Mega Ramp?
Yeah. I’d say there are parallels. There is and there isn’t because when you’re surfing big waves, you’re at the mercy of the ocean. Once it gets to a certain size, it’s just uncontrollable. That’s when you have to be the most relaxed. On a Mega Ramp, you can drop in and pretty much know you’re going to get carted away in an ambulance if you don’t hit it right. I can go to the Mega Ramp and maybe make it over the gap. I couldn’t do an air on the vert wall, but I could maybe drop in and at least get my body over it. I probably wouldn’t land it, but some guys can. That trajectory can feel the same as surfing though. It’s just the thrill. If you send a beginner to paddle out even on a small day at Waimea, you just know there’s no chance. You have to work your way to it. Then there are guys that are just nuts. Then you have the guys that skate that are super technical like Andy MacDonald. It takes all kinds. It’s cool now because everyone is becoming friends and being part of it. You see Hosoi going with his kids to the beach. It’s not so spread out now. People are becoming more aware. It’s cool.
Yeah. Now you have kids and Hosoi has kids and Garrett has kids. It’s so insane.
Yeah. It’s going to be a rad generation from the people our age that are having kids. It’s awesome. The coolest thing that I’ve seen lately is the picture that Grosso put up where his kid was holding the sign that said, “Did Grosso win yet?” at the Pool Party. The best part was Grosso said, “He still thinks I won.” I was like, “That’s insane.”
Yes! Okay, next question. Who do you think has the best surf skate style?
I’m going to say Hosoi has the best surf skate style, and best style, period, all around. Jay was the ultimate guy with surf skate style, but Christian is just the style master of whatever he does. He does nose manuals around the shallow end to nollie in backyard pools with style beyond style. If you surfed, that’s how you’d want to surf. If you skate, that’s how you wish you could skate. Who has the best skate surf style? Well, there are a lot of kids now that I don’t know, but I’ll say John John because he’s the only surfer that really skates at that level. There’s Eric Geiselman, this surfer kid from the East Coast, and he’s a good skateboarder, bowl, park and mini ramp guy. Remember Gershon Mosley and how sick he was on a mini ramp? I know there are other people, but those guys are the ones I’d say. John John in the water has the most skate approach and, of course, he skates too.
That’s really great. So do you think surf skate style is important today?
To be honest, I don’t really think about it, but it’s been part of my whole life. To me, style is just natural. No style is more my style when I think of style. Oh wait. I want to say that Joel Tudor has great style and he’s a great surfer and a great skateboarder. I forgot to mention him. He rips. He’s probably the most stylish of all styles you could ever have.
Yeah. He’s jazz on the water. That guy is insane. Okay, here’s one. What is the best thing your dad ever taught you and what is one thing you want to teach your kids?
The best thing my dad ever taught me was to let a child’s innocence feed your hunger, so that always stuck with me. I guess I’m going to teach my kids how to hold their breath and not be in pain.
That’s awesome. Okay. Here’s a different kind of question for you. How has Astrodeck affected your surfing and surfing in general?
Astrodeck has given me everything I have because of my family. Everything I have is from Astrodeck, so it’s made me a surfer, and it’s helped me with my surfing. For radical maneuvers, Astrodeck definitely helps my performance and it’s been a part of the whole performance era and airs. It was invented, right after the shortboard revolution. The aerial revolution began after Astrodeck, so what people have done has been mostly with Astrodeck on their equipment. Any rad trick or any gnarly-ness that has happened in the last 25 years, Astrodeck has been a part of it. It’s been right there and that’s what it’s pushing for. Whatever the future of surfing is, that’s what it’s part of.
I love that. Christian told me that he was raised surfing a single fin surfboard and you have been known for the quad fin for board control. Do you think that preference came from skateboarding or how did that all come about?
Well, I rode a twin fin, thruster and a single fin, and the twin fin went really fast, but you couldn’t turn it, so we were trying to make something new. I had a quad from Stussy and my brother had a quad when we were young, so we tried it and it felt good and then we worked on the fin placement and the outline and size and design. We realized that nobody had really messed with anything but a thruster for like 20 years. What happened was that people started using it and trying different fin set ups and it was awesome because now people are interested in their fins and their set ups. Now many people are much more educated on their fins and what they’re riding and what they like and what works and what doesn’t. It’s all part of the evolution and trying to design stuff and understanding floatation and board control or whatever it is. It’s something that’s known now, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle because of following your heart and knowing that something works and coming across it by accident, which is the only way magic happens. Then, if you believe in it and you show people and they try it, it becomes part of it.
That’s so rad. Do you want your kids to surf or skate or both or do you have any thoughts on that?
I’m just going to hope they have fun, whatever they do. That’s what I’m going to try to share with them. I want them to be really disciplined in their physical self so they can have the most fun. Be disciplined in doing it because you love it. As soon as they don’t want to skate, that’s when we’re going to go skating. As soon as they don’t want to surf, we’re going surfing. Then when they just want to surf, surf, surf, we’re going to go skate. I just want them to love it all. It’s like my dad would do with Greyson. He would just put him in a full wetsuit and take him down to the beach because he didn’t want to surf, and Greyson would go look for lizards until he was so hot that he had to go in the water.
It’s all for fun. I just hope they enjoy it.
Speaking of your dad, Herbie talked about how important moms are in raising good surfers and skaters. What do you remember from being a kid and going to the beach with your mom?
I remember a lot from that era. Our grandparents lived on the beach and we lived just a couple miles away from them, so I remember going to beach with mom a lot and going surfing and we had all these different boards. We had jet skis and canoes and Hobie Cats all right there. We had pretty much everything. We’d light fireworks and people were going to the hospital. [Laughs] It was all of it.
That’s so sick. I know you have been doing some ridiculous stuff in the water lately, acid dropping out of helicopters. Do you think the element of danger elevates your surfing?
No. It’s just an opportunity that got thrown at me and it’s something that I dreamed about as a kid. I’m not trying to look for danger as much now because of my family and my position in my life and I have things to lose now. At one point, I just didn’t care, and then Sion drowned right there with me, so that affected me. Then I went and caught all those waves in Tahiti and Fiji, but now where I’m at in my life, I’ll do risky things but at the most calculated level. I just try and follow my heart. I might do something dangerous one day, but I’m not really chasing it. It’s not like when I was just watching the maps and going all over the world to surf every big wave I could find, and thriving on it like I just couldn’t get enough. I don’t want to do that and get hurt or somebody dies or something. Life is changing and I want to be good and stay here. Now, I just go do it when I’m asked to go or I have a chance to go do it, and I just try to make it home.
Well, I’m sure you’ve seen all the footage lately of all the sharks in front of your grandparents house. Have you ever come face to face with a shark?
I’m sure I have. The best thing is to try to avoid them and not think about them and stay away from spots like that. You also don’t want to really snuggle with your dog before going surfing and have dog smell on your wetsuit and then paddle out around some sharks.
Right. Okay, here’s my last question. What is the most punk thing about surfing and skateboarding to you?
Well, I just want to say that it’s punk to be surfing and skating into your later years and, when you go surfing or skating, it still puts a smile on your face, just like it did when you were a kid. You see your friends and all the people that you know, and they’re still doing it too and they still get that same feeling too and that’s just the best. It makes you feel good and it makes you feel young. It connects you with your youth. It gives you that feeling of being a kid.
That’s a rad answer. Thank you for doing what you do and being an inspiration to everybody and congrats on your kids.
Well, thank you. I appreciate all that and all the coolness that you guys do. You guys cover all the people that I really admire and look up to and deserve somebody out there waving their flags. It’s cool. Stoked!
JUICE MAGAZINE SURF SKATE STYLE STORY:
The influence of surfing on skateboarding has been discussed since the beginning of both, yet we have now entered a new era, where skateboarding has returned the favor with its own unique influence on the surfing world. In order to get to the core of this cross over and to try to define the origins and current state and status of surf skate style, we’ve interviewed some of the most innovative skateboarders, surfers, artists, documentarians, photographers, filmmakers and musicians on the planet. In honor of the great, Shogo Kubo, who once said, “To me, style is everything…” welcome to our exploration of Surf Skate Style featuring interviews with Aaron Murray, Aaron Astorga, Abraham Paskowitz, Art Brewer, Bennett Harada, Brad Bowman, Brandon Cruz, Brian Brannon, Carter Slade, Chris Miller, Chris Strople, Christian Fletcher, Christian Hosoi, Craig Stecyk III, Darren Ho, Dave Tourje, David Hackett, Dennis Martinez, Dibi Fletcher, Don Redondo, Eric Britton, Garrett McNamara, Gerry Lopez, Glen E. Friedman, Greg Falk, Greg Galbraith, Greyson Fletcher, Herbie Fletcher, James O’Mahoney, Jef Hartsel, Jeff Ament, Jeff Divine, Jeff Ho, Jim Fitzpatrick, Jim Gray, John Van Hamersveld, Jonathan Paskowitz, Josh “Bagel” Klassman, Kalani David, Keith Morris, Kirra Kehoe, Larry Bertlemann, Laura Thornhill, Lizzie Armanto, Marc Emond, Michael Denicola, Michael Early, Nano Nobrega, Nathan Fletcher, Nathan Florence, Neil Stratton, Norton Wisdom, Pat Bareis, Randy Katen, Ray Flores, Rob Nelson, Robert Trujillo, Scott Oster, Shane Allen, Shaun Tomson, Shota Kubo, Solo Scott, Stacy Peralta, Steve Alba, Steve Olson, Takuji Masuda, Terry Nails, Tim Curran, Tim Hendricks, Tim Kerr, Tom Groholski, Tony Alva, Wes Humpston and Zach Miller.