第4回 ハービー・フレッチャー The Thrill is Back〜ボードカルチャーの第一人者

No. 4 Harvey Fletcher The Thrill is Back ~ Board culture guru

One of the coolest things about the world of surfing is hearing real stories directly from the pioneers who pioneered the era. Above all, surfing is a unique sport that can be enjoyed in the same field by men and women of all ages around the world. Is it really a sport or a culture? In terms of BEACHED DAYS, I definitely think it's the latter.

Last May, Harvey Fletcher came to Japan to hold the art event "Take Five" at the Ron Herman Sendagaya store. He is the first person to create board culture, and is still a true legend. He is also known as a mentor to Mitch Absher and Joel Tudor, and is a leading figure in the longboard revival of the 90s. His many titles and accomplishments are too numerous to list, but we asked him about some of his many stories.

(Maalaea, Maui 1976. Photo: Art Brewer)

I hear that your main purpose this time is to hold the art show "Take Five" at Ron Herman. How many years has it been since you came to Japan?

The last time I went was about 5 years ago for the Green Room Festival. The art show at Ron Herman the other day was a really great event and I think it was a huge success. The photos and videos I exhibited received very good feedback from visitors.

Where did the title and concept for the show “Take Five” come from?

Ever since I was a kid, I always listened to Dave Brubeck's jazz music, and I especially loved his song Take Five. The title also reminds me of surfing's Hanging Five.

(“Take Five” by Herbie Fletcher Photo courtesy of RHC)

At the art show, there were many photographs that gave a sense of the history of surfing, and it was really impressive.

Oh, they exhibited everything from old to new. Even though it's new, it was made 7 or 8 years ago. The old one was taken by my father-in-law, Walter Hoffman, in the summer of the 1950s, and I inherited it from him. He was the 1951 Makaha Surf Contest champion, surfing while working for his father, a textile businessman, and working at a Navy radio station at night. I met my wife, Divi, on a beach in Makaha in 1964.

Art, not just photography, has occupied a large part of my life. But I've never given up on surfing, and that has had a big influence on my art.

Here in Japan, we are finally seeing the third generation of surfers, but your surfing family spans four generations.

We're not just surfers, we're four generations of champions. Walter is a big wave surf pioneer. Her daughter and Divi's older sister, Joyce Hoffman, is a 4x Women's World Champion who changed the world of surfing for women and brought style to the sport. My generation learned surfing from Phil Edwards, and through him we met Walter and then Divi.

(Herbie's sons are Christian, an aerial pioneer, and Nathan, a big waver and extreme surfing guru.)

Grandchildren Grayson, Laser, and Jetson all surf, skate, and snowboard.

Please tell us about the original pipe house on Hawaii's North Shore, which you can see in the photo.

Pipeline is my favorite place and I've lived here for a long time. The first time I surfed Pipeline was in 1965, so that was about 60 years ago. Fat Paul (Paul Peterson) lived in the lot behind the former Jerry Lopez house, and Jerry built a pipe house in 1980, and they owned the house together. We sold it in 1997 and it's now called Volcom House, but there was a big garden in front of the house that we used to hang out in after pipe surfing. This hasn't changed since then. Jamie O'Brien's large house now stands on the land where Fat Paul lived.

(w/Gerry and BK. Sunset 1971. Photo: Jeff Divine)

I heard that you were also hanging out with Jimmy Hendrix at the time. Is it true that you were surfing on the beach with his guitar playing in the background?

Oh, and I met Jimi Hendrix at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival (a historic event in the hippie movement, the Summer of Love), and I went to Maui's Rainbow in 1970 with Mike Hinson and Andy Warhol's muses. Appeared in the Bridge concert movie. Jimmy is the person who changed the history of music. Yes, it's true that I was surfing at Rocky Point while listening to Jimmy play the guitar (laughs).

I'm sure you've given a number of interviews so far, but could you please tell our readers again about your slogan, ``The Thrill is Back''?

In 1967, I lived Off the Wall with Gary Chapman. At the time, surfers would check the pipeline from the beach park side and go elsewhere if they thought it wasn't good. But at Backdoor and Off the Wall, sometimes the perfect tube of light would break. Gary was developing the Minigun with Dick Brewer, and I was also building a board that could go through those fast tubes and ride through the waves.

Later, when Christian was born, we moved to California to send him to school, and the 1970s were the heyday of shortboarding. Compared to Hawaii, the waves in California were too weak to be short. It was fine for small children, but too small for older adults. There was a time when no one cared about longboards commercially, but I came up with the slogan ``The Thrill is Back'' and thought it would be a revolution to make longboards popular again. At a time when longboards were hard to come by, he started Herbie Flecther Surfboards in Dana Point in 1975 and continued to provide longboards to people. When the Astrodeck was created in 1976, the grip was significantly increased, and surfers' maneuvers were greatly improved. Christian incorporated skateboarding maneuvers into surfing and began doing aerials. Nathan, on the other hand, was mastering all of Christian's airs, but he was also doing hard turns and big waves like Tom Carroll.

You've been a part of the evolution of surfing by riding longboards, rather than just laying back. How did the "Side Slip Boogie" maneuver come about? I remember Bruce Irons doing a sideslip in a tube on a surf trip to Tahiti with you.

Sideslip is an effective maneuver that allows you to stall and control the tube. On a big wave day in Honolua Bay, Maui in 1966, I was hanging out on a surfboard made by Phil Edwards when the reverse pine fin slipped out and I started skidding. When I told Phil, he said, ``Oh, that's what I mean by hang ten and sideslip.'' Then I started practicing and learned how to side-slip and stall and also put in fins to control tube rides. My style is to use big boards, big fins, and fast, hollow waves.

(Wrecktangles 2023 Photo courtesy of RHC)

What do you think about the current environment surrounding surfing?

Well, I think the surfing industry has already come to an end. Many people have dabbled in the business of surfing, and now there is one company that owns all the brands. There are actually people who make surfboards, and there are small companies, but the soul has been lost. It's kind of scary that surfing has become so mainstream that it's only mainstream.

But now, kids are returning to this part of their soul, returning to their roots, and there are signs of change, and I think it's becoming a big circle again. There's also the concept of collecting broken boards from pipelines to create Wrecktangles.

There used to be many characters in the surfing world, but now personality and style are no longer relevant. The last character I saw in surfing was Bruce Irons. Christian, Archie (Matt Archibald) and Andy Irons all had gritty personalities. The WSL's contests and prize money system have turned surfing into just a sport. Including the Olympics. My soul has been lost.

In the past, contests had a spirit of aloha, with everyone having a good time and enjoying socializing. Even in contests, we weren't just concerned about winning or losing, we were checking out the creative aspects and what kind of board shape each other was making.

I'm planning to start shaping surfboards again in the future. Shaping is also an art for me, and I apply resin paint with glassing. My paintings, large sculptures, photographs, and videos are all art that is an extension of surfing.

You have been surfing for a long time, but can you imagine living without surfing or the ocean?

I can't imagine living without surfing, and I don't even know where else to live other than near the ocean (lol). I've lived right next to the beach for a long time and plan to continue surfing for as long as I can. I love cities, inland mountains, and desert areas, but I still love surfing. Surfing is my life, and it's definitely the only way to live.


Interview/Mio Kawazoe ● Born and residing in Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Graduated from California State University, San Diego, surfing club. The son of a 1st generation Japanese surfer, he encountered foreign culture from an early age. For 10 years starting in the early 1990s, he lived between San Diego and Malibu, California, experiencing the longboard revival. After returning to Japan, he became the editor-in-chief of ON THE BOARD and worked on GLIDE and other magazine media. Until now, we have introduced real California logs and alternative surf scenes to Japan through our own network.

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