The iconic image of Herbie Fletcher skating a pool back in the late 60s has once again surfaced. This time as part of a recently published piece written by Steve Pezman and featured in the latest edition of The Surfers Journal.
On the surface it’s noteworthy for many reasons but there’s also an underlying irony that grabbed our attention.
Let us try to unwrap some of that.
First, the simple fact that Herb is the grandfather of the incredibly talented skater Greyson Fletcher and father to the also multi-disciplined brothers Christian and Nathan, speaks to the deep and very real connection that has existed between surf and skate. Herb’s wife, Dibi, just also happens to be the daughter of early days surf pioneer Walter Hoffman as well as sister to Joyce, one of women surfing’s all-time greats. One might say that the Hoffman/Fletcher family comes from a very talent-rich gene pool.
But the real irony of this photo is how it represents a historical record of where skating got its start. We’re not talking about riding down the sidewalk on an old two-by-four with metal roller-skate wheels, but actual vert skating, in a pool and featuring a surfer.
Barefoot no less.
For many years skating in the US had long been tied to surfing and was dominated by sunny Southern California imagery. In those earliest of days, skating was just something surfers did while waiting for the surf to turn on. Jay Adams and Tony Alva, and much of the original Dog Town crew, were hardcore surfers but also insane skaters, which wasn’t uncommon back then. (RIP to Jay, Tony still surfs to this day). Soon after though, skating began to take on its own direction and image, quickly becoming almost belligerent in an obviously outward attempt to disavow those roots.
When skate’s original Southern California power center began to shift north to San Fran, and then on to New York and other more urban areas, it had all but abandoned surfing as its soul mate. Any real skater from most of the 1990s through much of the early 2000s would have told you very simply: “surfing is lame and surfers are kooks”.
Can’t really blame them as surfing was well on its slide into the horrific transformation from a unique and almost spiritual art form to a wannabe jock fest.
But then, something began to change.
What? Alex Olsen surfs?
Sal Barbier just ordered a new board.
Curren Caples straight up rips.
In short order many skaters of prominence were quietly taking up surfing and not because it was getting all jocked out but because surfing is and always has been kinda cool. Right about the time this very media project was launched (2014), surfers and skaters were actually beginning to hang out again. Some even began to collaborate on business projects together.
So, have we come full circle from Herbie’s magical pool line some 50-plus years ago?
So it would seem.