I was 14 years old, rolling my Makaha Skateboard down the ramp at Huntington Pier when a kid blew past me while doing a 360 turn. We didn’t meet then, but I would soon discover his name was Herbie Fletcher.
A few years later we were introduced while surfing at the pier where he, being fast, stylish and fearless, had worked his way up in the ranks to become one of the top juniors on the scene.
By 1967 Herbie became a surf media darling after starring in MacGillivray/Freeman’s film, “Free and Easy.”
Hair went longer and surfboards went shorter and I again caught up with Fletcher, this time in Maui where he was riding the first down railed boards and flying across sections at the world’s fastest wave, Maalaea.
It was around that time Herb met Dibi Hoffman, the sister of Joyce Hoffman, who was then considered the best woman surfer in the world and daughter of Walter Hoffman, a legendary surf pioneer and fabric importer/designer.
While still in their early teens, the couple ran away to Oahu’s North Shore with no plan to create a life nobody ever imagined.
They had a son named Christian and their dream world looked to have ended when a car T-boned the family on Kam Highway.
Dibi and Christian survived with little damage while Herb’s leg had been so shattered that the doctors said they would have to cut it off, something comparable to Eric Clapton losing his fingers.
When Herb refused the operation, a surgeon rescued the leg by bracing it with a metal plate, advising six-week hospital recovery time. Seven days later Herbie was out the door and healing in their Hawaiian home.
The story between those days in the early 1970s and now is a fascinating one.
Here are some of the highlights: Dibi Fletcher become a world-renowned artist and writer, Herbie invented moves like the side slip, surfing deck pads, and was at the forefront of the Longboard Renaissance; Christian become a surfing pioneer by blasting higher aerials than anyone thought possible; Nathan distinguished himself in motocross and eventually became a big-wave master who has survived waves that would destroy most people; and Christian’s son, Greyson Thunder, became one of the world’s top skateboarders.
All of this in a half-century, adrenaline-fueled blink.
I caught up with Herbie and Dibi recently at their Astrodeck warehouse in San Clemente where Herb showed me his museum-quality surfboard collection, stacks of artwork and deck pads warehoused before being distributed internationally. The occasion for the reunion was a Planet X show I am hosting.
During the show’s taping, Dibi mentioned how journalists, book authors, bloggers and filmmakers have portrayed the family as something they are not. Her response: “I’ll write the story myself.”
The result is a beautiful coffee table tome titled, “Fletcher: A Lifetime in Surf.”
While the book entertained and enlightened my surf-stoked soul, it left me hungry for more. That’s my way of requesting a second volume.
“Fletcher: A Lifetime in Surf” can be ordered by visiting barnesandnoble.com.