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22/30 September 2017 - #65ssiff

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You are in: Home > 2015. 63rd Edition  > Festival Diary > Threading turbulent seas
Threading turbulent seas
Friday, September 25th, 2015

Nathan Fletcher is surfing’s tall tale. He was born into wave sliding royalty all the way back to his grandpa who invented the Hawaiian shirt. His dad changed how people stick on their surfboards,his mom changed parenting, his brother, named after Fletcher Christian, took surfing to the air, and Nathan? Nathan, wanted nothing to do with any of it.

Like a good prodigal, he sprinted as far away from the ocean as he could, chasing dirt bike thrills and snowy mountain highs. His dedication, skill,fearlessness were exceptional and he raced motorbikes professionally. But also like good prodigal, the family eventually beaconed and Nathan returned.

Heavy Water explores Nathan Fletcher’s life and relentless pursuit of wildly massive waves. His feats are passed, whisper by whisper, amongst surf aficionados. He isn’t a typical surf subject. He was best friends with Andy and Bruce Irons from Kauai. They would travel together, daring each other to go bigger. He was friend’s with Sion Milosky and they would tackle Oahu’s giant outer reefs with, scratching in with bare hands, reviving big gun surfing and making his father smile.

Hawaii, big waves, sheer masculinity from a bygone era are all in Nathan’s DNA and to understand him you must first understand his lineage. In the 1950s, Nathan’s maternal grandfather, Walter Hoffman, became a legend of the surf scene while creating the Hawaiian shirt, and their fabric company continues to supply the massive surf apparel industry.

Herbie arrived in Hawaii to surf when he was about 16 and came upon a 13- ear-old Dibi competing in tandem. Their first son was Christian. He began surfing competitively at 5. In 1989 he appeared on the cover of Surfer magazine and won his first and only pro contest. Christian transgressed of surfing’s established rules. And it was not welcomed by the many professional surfers who in 1990 signed an open letter to surf magazines demanding that they blacklist surfers like Christian.

In Southern California, one young surfer’s personal style can have global implications. Pro surfers drive sales for massive apparel companies like Quiksilver and Billabong. When Christian turned the corner to punk and skate, surf followed. The industry now generates profits in the billions.

And it was beneath Christian’s shadow that Nathan grew. It was the weight of a surf family thatmade him seek a name out of the water but it was inevitable that he would return. It was written in the stars. And he has now put his own imprint on surf. Michael Oblowitz, the film’s director, likens him to Bob Dylan and the reference is apt. He shuns the spotlight, partially, but his prodigious talent forces him to be in view. He is an incredible waterman. He is one of a kind and his own story, woven in with the Fletchers, is just getting started.

CHAS SMITH

 

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