Fletcher, Christian

Innovative metal-loving goofyfooter from San Clemente, California; an icon in both aerial surfing and surf-rebel extremism. "He's got tombstones for eyes, and is always bleeding from somewhere," surf writer Matt George noted. "Anytime Christian Fletcher shows up, an ordinary day suddenly ends."

Fletcher was born (1970) in Kahuku, Oahu, Hawaii, the son of longboarder and surf impresario Herbie Fletcher, grandson of big-wave pioneer Walter Hoffman, and nephew of two-time world champion Joyce Hoffman. He began surfing with his father as a toddler, and moved with his family to Capistrano Beach in 1974.

Fletcher had some good contest results as a preteen, finishing second in the menehune division of the 1983 United States Surfing Championships and second in the open-age longboard division of the 1985 U.S. Championships. He also earned $31,725—surfing's biggest-ever cash prize at the time—for his win in the 1989 Body Glove Surf Bout. But Fletcher later had nothing but scorn for competition. "I could give a fuck about being world champion," the ninth-grade dropout told Surfing magazine in 1991, in the linguistic style that helped make him a surf rebel icon. "But I like to go out and fuck with people during the heats."

Matt Kechele, Kevin Reed, Davey Smith, and Larry Bertlemann more or less simultaneously invented aerial surfing in the late '70s, and the new form continued to slowly develop in the early and mid-'80s. But it was Fletcher, in the late '80s, who transformed the aerial from novelty to high-performance mainstay, and introduced the surf world to a new sub-lexicon that included "mute air," "indy air," air-to-reverse," "slob air," and "stalefish."

Fletcher also defined the aerial as the move of choice for surf rebels. In 1990, a few weeks after a group of world tour pros signed a letter to Surfer complaining about the amount of media coverage Fletcher was getting, the drawling aerialist shot back in a Surfer interview, saying "it was stupid" that former world champion Damien Hardman didn't ride bigger waves, that top-rated Richie Collins was "the biggest kook there is," and that former world champion Barton Lynch was "conservative to the max." Magazine readers loved Fletcher's aggressive approach, and voted him #7 in the 1990 Surfer Poll Awards.

Throughout the early '90s, the heavily tattooed and pierced Fletcher launched ever-higher aerials, and regularly added to his on-record litany of scandalous and often spiteful quotes. He told Australia's Surfing Life magazine in 1993 that he was probably an alcoholic, that he smoked "maybe 10 joints a day," and that he'd let his three-year-old son smoke "if he wanted to do it at home, off the streets." At night, he played bass in several local death-metal bands, including Bloodshot, Mutilage, and Axefukk. Spankys, an Orange County porn store, was one of Fletcher's sponsors.

By the mid-'90s, after world champion Kelly Slater, Kalani Robb, Tim Curran, and dozens of other pros had followed Fletcher's lead and become master aerialists, Fletcher himself was deep into a heroin habit, divorced, and living in a warehouse. His 1991-founded line of punk-decorated surfboards and beachwear had failed.

Temporarily clean in 1996, Fletcher announced that he was landing "the biggest airs of my life; huge ones, like five feet," and the following year he won the inaugural Surfing Magazine Airshow tour. A 2011 New York Times article revealed that Fletcher had recently spent a year in Bali avoiding a drug sentence, but had returned to San Clemente, and was working in the warehouse at Astrodeck, his family's surfboard traction company.

Fletcher has been featured in more than 50 surf movies and videos, including all of the Herbie Fletcher–produced Wave Warrior and Adrenaline Surf series videos, along with Runman 69 (1989), Supernatural (1990), Surfers: The Movie (1990), Rolling Thunder (1991), Mental Surfing (1993), Digital Daze (1999), and Nobody's Heroes (2006). Surfing magazine named Fletcher to their 2004 list of the "Top 16 Surfers of All Time."

Greyson Fletcher, Christian's son, born in 1991 is an accomplished skateboarder and played the role of surf prodigy Shaun Yost in the short-lived HBO series John From Cincinatti.