PHOTO: Nate Lawrence
The What Youth magazine comes out every quarter, and so far we’ve been pretty exclusive and haven't released much from it on the Internet. Not sure why, this Internet thing is the past, present and future we're told. Anyway, in an effort to give you a glimpse at the variety of what’s inside these quarterly books, which are 146 pages of thick paper stock and incredible, coffee table worthy photography from Nate Lawrence and others, we thought we’d let you in on a few of our favorite pieces to date. In case you might want one, or the whole collection, they are on sale here in our store.
After the jump is a conversation with Christian Fletcher, featuring appearances by Herbie, Greyson and Dibi Fletcher.
It was an interesting day and makes for an even more interesting read...
Photography is from the 2012 Kustom Airstrike trip
In our second issue (Fall 2012) we took photos from the 2012 Kustom Aistrike, printed them out and drove them to the Astrodeck factory in San Clemente, California. Our plan was to talk about them with Christian Fletcher. We thought, “This represents aerial surfing today,” and Christian’s opinion seemed relevant.
That was our plan.
Christian Fletcher = C
Herbie Fletcher = H
Greyson Fletcher = G
Dibi Fletcher = D
What Youth: Before you came along, what kind of surfing was going on?
Just carves. That was progressive.
C: I don’t really know, I just grew up surfing. I didn’t think about what was progressive.
Who were your influences?
C: Uh, my dad. Buttons. I don’t know, just, like, Cheyne Horan. Seventies surfers.
When you started doing airs it was more influenced by skateboarding, right?
C: Yeah. I’ve been skating my whole life too.
Did you envision airs progressing this far, to what it’s become?
C: What has it become?
Backflips, slob grabs, mute grabs, I don’t know. Crazy consistency.
C: Uh, OK. Let me see. Backflips?
C: [Holds up photo] This is a backflip?
H: You did a flip at Log Cabins, right?
C: No no no but what’s this?
H: Back in the ‘80s, Christian? Or was it ‘90s?
C: I don’t know, dad. What’s this?
H: Well I remember all the photographers were so stunned they couldn’t shoot.
This is Chippa.
C: This is Chippa…
This is Chippa doing a backside air reverse. But remember, Flynn Novak was doing those backflips last year and he won this thing [Kustom Airstrike].
C: Oh, yeah. Yeah, it’s cool… Barney was doing those like a million years ago, landing out the back kinda.
Now these guys are getting real technical and…
C: What’s real technical?
Grabbing here, grabbing here.
C: OK but I was doing that in the ‘80s. So what’s technical about it now?
It’s still technical, it’s still impressive.
C: OK, so why wasn’t it impressive 20 years ago?
I’m sure it was. I wasn’t there.
C: Well, it really wasn’t.
It wasn’t impressive?
C: Well, no. They didn’t want to know about it.
H: Nobody knew what was going on.
Why do you think that was?
C: You don’t have enough time for that.
No, please. I do.
C: I don’t have enough time for it.
C: But I just don’t understand what’s so progressive about it. If they’re doing this and I was doing fucking basically similar stuff, all the same grabs, it really isn’t that progressive, is it?
So it’s the same stuff that was going on then, but they’re incredibly consistent now. They’re making a bunch of the things they try.
C: [Holds up photo] Is this John John?
C: This one’s sick.
He almost definitely won. [Note: He did win.]
C: OK, did he make it or did he fall?
He made it. We just didn’t want to make the photos any smaller.
C: He made it, OK. Greyson, look at that one. That one’s sick. Right?
[Herbie has left and returns with a Xeroxed pamphlet of old air photos with each maneuver titled]: H: This is Christian. Some of these are like ‘90s shots. But you can see the different grabs. He was doing stalefishes in the ‘80s, and it was published in the magazines. They were calling it a “sailfish,” they didn’t know what they were talking about. See these boards? See the grab? That explains it. And I tried to do this, I didn’t have the money that all the other manufacturers did, but this was a different way of surfing and the guys at Surfing, Surfer, had their heads up their ass and they still do.
C: [Holds up photo] Who’s this?
H: Did you see what he’s doing there? Air over human. You know, look at the grabs.
C: This is a double-grab anyways, this one here.
The Kerrupt? Is it that one?
C: I don’t know. It’s gay, that’s what that is.
H: Anyway if you check out the old videos you’d see a lot of it. But I think it’s hard to check ‘em out because I don’t think they’re around anymore. I did a whole series called Adrenaline Surf Series that Surfing Magazine wouldn’t even let me advertise in their magazine, ‘cause it said, the abbreviation was A.S.S.
H: And I said, “What about Reef? They’ve got a real ass there!” But they wouldn’t even let me advertise.
G: You think this is frontside here, or landing fakie huh?
H: We did six videos on California, you know, uh, and it was mostly about aerial surfing. And nobody even picked up on it.
C: [Holds up photo] For a double-grab this one’s sick though.
H: And I did a couple, like three [videos] before that. One was Savage Beast, another one was Supernatural, and Tweak Freak. They showed all that. And the people from like, you know, the Billabongs in those days, which is Hurley now, but all those guys from Costa Mesa, Newport, they said it wasn’t surfing. Surfer Magazine, Surfing Magazine, all the companies, Quiksilver, they said it wasn’t surfing. And I’m going, “What the fuck do you know? You don’t hardly surf! You want me to make a video on you guys, how lame you are?”
C: John John looks like Dylan.
D: Does he ride for Analog now?
C: No, that’s uh, Chippa.
How’d that go over?
H: Uh, it didn’t go over real well, ‘cause Surfing Magazine was right next door to me in our building.
People don’t know about it. Just like that little booklet I did, the reason I made it was the magazines would piss me off. I mean, Flame [Moore, Surfing Magazine photo editor] would have an eight-foot air [of Christian] over an eight-foot wave at Pipeline and he wouldn’t run it. He’d go, “Well who’s his sponsors?” I’d go, “Well I’m your biggest advertiser,” ‘cause I had three full-page ads in the magazine, but he still didn’t run it. I think that’s bullshit. He’d go, “Oh, that’s a tube-riding wave.” I’d say, “Fuck, he’s flying over a section! That’s harder than riding the tube.” You know?
H: It just pissed me off. That’s why I made that booklet, so I could send it out to all the shops so they could see what’s going on.
What year was that?
H: Probably right around ’92, ’93 that I sent it out. But a lot of those pictures were from before that. He was just riding a skateboard on water and nobody understood that.
So you have the proof right here—
C: I don’t need the proof dude, I know.
OK. Where would you like to see aerials going, if not this?
C: Where would I like to see it going?
What kind of surfing gets you excited now?
C: I don’t know, I’ve been, like, doing like turns lately.
H: That’s a judo air.
C: They still don’t do those.
H: That was ‘90, ‘91. Right around there.
C: They still don’t do ‘em. They don’t even know what they are.
Matt Meola did something similar, you know what I’m talking about? Something like that, one-footed, I think it was on the cover of Stab.
C: Yeah, they called it a judo but it wasn’t.
What was it?
C: Like a one-footed slob.
D: Safety grab.
C: Ask him what to call it.
I wonder, he might know. He used to skate a lot when he was younger.
C: Doesn’t matter. He’s a surfer. He’s out there doing the tricks, shouldn’t he know what they are? That sucks if not even the surfers know.
D: They don’t know.
C: I know. It’s just like you, you’re involved in journalism but you don’t understand the history of any of it.
I think that’s why I came here, to hear it firsthand.
C: Yeah well, shouldn’t you research it first so you know what’s going on?
I want to talk to you specifically about [these photos], because from what I’ve seen, it’s some of the best stuff being done—
C: You haven’t seen very much then, have you?
I feel like I see a lot.
C: Only brand new stuff though?
Yeah, I mean new stuff.
C: You don’t know where it came from though.
Are you impressed by this at all? Or do you not care?
C: Don’t care.
Is there something you’d like to see these guys do that they’re not?
C: Yeah. I’d like to see them know what they’re doing. John John probably knows the best out of all of ‘em.
Knowing what the grabs are called?
C: Well, wouldn’t that be a fuckin’ start?
Why is that so relevant?
C: What do you mean, “Why is that so relevant?”
I mean, does—
C: Do you drive a car and not know fuckin’ what you’re doing?
No, but do I have to know what the car is called to get where I’m going? Why is it so important to know the name of a move?
C: ‘Cause otherwise they’re a bunch of fucking idiots.
G: It’s basic.
C: You might know how to get from point A to point B but do you know what a fuckin’ stop sign is?
Dibi: [Walks over] May I say something? May I say something? Every fricking skater knows the name of every single trick. Every one of them. And every one of these magazines has a skate magazine in [the same building], why don’t they walk across the cubicle and ask them? The top judges say, “Oh, well we’d better start talking to the surfers because they’re the ones making up this stuff.” No. They’re not. They’ve been doing it in skate for 30 years, and you guys don’t know the name of it? That’s obscene. That’s shameful. Everybody wants to write about it and they don’t do their homework? That’s the point I feel that Christian is really trying to articulate, is what the hell is wrong with everybody?
C: It all came from skate. I mean, you can watch a skate video, any skate video, and every single one of those little skate kids knows the name of every one of those grabs, tricks, and everything else. And no surfers do? And no surf contest judges do? Really?
H: They didn’t—
H: They didn’t invent anything. It’s already been done.
D: And so that’s the point. And so if you really want surfing to progress, it would seem to me that you would go to the roots of these tricks and really find out what they are. It’s not that difficult.
G: That way they could judge ‘em right, too.
D: And they could call them right and then they could educate the public. So when Surfing Magazine makes this grandiose statement—
C: That was Surfer.
D:—that [they] want to educate everyone on what these tricks are, and they blow it?
H: They don’t know!
D: And so I wrote an article on, you know, like aerials—
H: She does a lot of writing too.
D: On like the whole aerial movement, and I said, “Maybe one day they’ll have a great skater in that judges’ booth, so they could help articulate the difficulty of these tricks.” And so that’s the point. You say why does it even matter…getting things right does matter. It makes a difference. Whether you’re surfing or watching it or whether you’re the crowd enjoying it. When you watch diving they tell you the difficulty. In all other sports they tell you the difficulty but surfing is so lazy that they don’t want to tell you, “This trick is so difficult.” Do you understand? And so it could be graded on the difficulty of that trick to complete it.
D: And so that makes sense doesn’t it? And yes, I don’t need to know about the engine of my car, do you understand, but if I’m interested in surfing, or writing about surfing, it’s my job. It is my job, to know what those tricks are. Do you understand? So that’s the point I think Christian is making.
C: Hey ‘cause honestly, I don’t want to talk to you otherwise if you don’t know anything, you know what I mean? It’s a waste of time. I’m not gonna sit here and educate you on it.
H: Most of the editors at the magazines are so ignorant—
D: On the history, and you just go, “That’s ridiculous. You guys are writing about it, so it really holds surfing back ‘cause there’s a bunch of you young kids chattering about it. I don’t mind if you chatter about it, you understand, but at least chatter about it from a point of knowledge. Because that makes it more interesting for everybody.”
D: Certainly for the spectator or the person reading that magazine, if they’re given some kernels of truth to go along with it, that makes it more interesting. I want to know how hard that trick is. Christian and I were watching some heat the other day and they were pushing this guy, and it was obvious they were pushing him, you understand, and someone else did something that was obviously more difficult and didn’t get the same score. I mean, if there was a criteria that said, “This trick is really hard. This trick is a 10 if you pull it off…” You understand?
C: These guys do all the same tricks. Look at your pictures. Basically the same thing.
D: But if you ask Greyson, he can tell you what every single one of those tricks is. And you ask most of anybody else and they don’t even know. What’s wrong?
C: And [Greyson] just started surfing.
D: But he comes from skate. So he knows what they all are and he’ll say, “Oh that guy’s kind of faking it. He’s going for one trick but he’s not really making it.” You understand? And so that’s the point I think these guys are all making.
G: Surfers, all their grabs are the same as skating but in skating there’s way more grabs.
Because a skateboard’s smaller and you can control it more?
G: Yeah, ‘cause of wind and everything.
C: The surfboard’s the largest and the lightest of all the boards, so everything affects you a lot more. And even if it’s glassy the wave’s moving toward shore so that takes it away from you.
So what grab on a surfboard is most difficult? Without being impossible.
C: I don’t know, tail grab.
C: It’s dangerous.
What about no grab?
C: What about it?
Is that more difficult?
C: Easy. I think. [This] stuff’s cool, you know…but I don’t know, the double-grabs…not a lot of it really impresses me. It’s all the same thing.
Because it’s all variations on the same theme?
C: Yeah, it’s all the same. Chippa looks like he’s trying to do a fuckin’ Indy 540, you know? John John’s cool. It’s rad, I’m not saying it’s not rad, but as far as being progressive it’s all the same tricks.
And it’s the same trick you can go see, any beach in California you can see kids do the same trick. Maybe not as rad, but you’re gonna see air reverses anywhere you go. Every single surfer does it, you know? If you’re a professional surfer, how many tricks you think you need right now? How many different tricks you think the professional surfer knows?
I don’t know.
C: I mean if a surfer has 10 tricks he’s looking pretty fuckin’ good, you know? If you’re a skater, how many different tricks you know? An encyclopedia full. And they know the names of all of ‘em. A surfer only knows the names of three or four.
Why is that?
C: I don’t know, I think they’re all fuckin’ pretty much lost except John John. John John rides a skateboard though.
H: [Yells from other room] The future is John John getting towed in at Jaws and doing flips and spins like a snowboarder. That’s what the future is.
H: Yep. On big waves.
C: This is the future. I’ll show ya. [Produces un-waxed step-up with a squash tail] This is the future. Fuckin’ kick-tails and shit. Airs on big boards.
On big waves?
C: Yeah. Like Pipeline’s probably the best wave I’ve ever surfed for doing airs. On boards like this. You go so fast and you got the wind blowing into you, kind of sticks the board to your feet, you know. You can go huge.
Pipeline fuckin’, the wave comes like this and it bends around, and a lot of times there’s a little right coming at you, and it’s sorta onshore by the way it’s bending so it gives you a little coping on the lip. So you can fucking fly huge airs on a big board, and land stable.
That sounds dangerous.
C: What’s dangerous about it?
Everything. What’s not?
C: Why? Why’s it dangerous?
The reef, and a big wave, and being in the air.
C: You’re worse off if…like if you make it to where you could do an air, you’re pretty safe. It’s the beginning part that’s gonna get ya.