Corky Carroll: Surfing innovator Herbie Fletcher is about to get a well-deserved honor in Huntington Beach
This year’s Surfers’ Hall of Fame induction will be held Friday, Aug. 3, at the plaza in front of Huntington Surf and Sport in Huntington Beach. It’s part of the big U.S. Open of Surfing competition that takes place annually in Surf City, U.S.A.
The Open is one of my favorite events, as it brings together many of the legends of the sport along with the current stars who are there for the competition.
I’ll get more into the ceremony itself in the next couple of weeks. Today, I wanna just talk about one of the inductees into this year’s class: Herbie Fletcher.
I love this guy. We go way, way, really way, back.
Herbie was a year behind me at Huntington Beach High School and part of a great era of surfers from that school that included Robert August, Rich Chew, John Boozer, Tom Leonardo, Mike Haley, Tim Dorsey, Lee Beltz, Robert Kooken, Denny Buehl, Frog Van Offlen and Jon Overmyer. Herbie’s parents and my parents used to hang out together at surfing contests watching us when we were young up and comers. I actually recruited Herbie to the Hobie surf team where he thrived on custom-made Phil Edwards model boards.
So, as you can imagine, I was really stoked to see his name on this year’s list of Hall of Fame honorees.
Herb was born in Pasadena but grew up a “pier rat” in Huntington Beach. He was a successful competitor on the contest circuit in California throughout the mid- and late-1960s. Then he moved to the North Shore of Oahu where he honed his skills and took the art of “side slipping” to a whole new level.
He married Walter Hoffman’s daughter Dibi and together they would go on to produce a whole lineup of amazing surfing kids and now grandkids.
Dibi came from a surfing family that included her infamous big wave riding “Godfather of the Surfwear Industry” dad Walter; uncle Flippy, who was an incredible big wave surfer and the first to get towed into huge offshore waves way back in the ’60s by a Boston Whaler; and her older sister Joyce, who was world champion and one of the greatest women surfers ever. Both of the Fletcher kids, Christian and Nathan, have been top surfers in their own rights.
Herbie’s company, Astrodeck, became the leading producer of stick-on deck patches that have been used continuously by the top surfers on the planet. He has produced a succession of surf films to promote his brand and he was the first to tow surfers into waves on a Jet Ski, pulling Tom Carroll, Martin Potter and Michael Ho way back in 1987. He even dared to take off and ride giant waves on the ski himself.
When I first saw a video of him riding a huge wave on one at Waimea Bay, hanging on for dear life all the way to the sand, I was amazed and had to hand it to him for guts.
Herbie has been a real innovator in many aspects of surfing and the surfing industry, as well as one of its more colorful characters.
I still see him surfing, and surfing very well, to this day. He will occasionally accompany his father-in-law and crew to the same area on mainland Mexico that I hang out most of the time and we will get to ride some waves together and visit a little. I enjoy his stoke and that he always seems to be upbeat and has something going on. Both Herbie and Dibi are also very talented artists.
Herbie will turn 70 this year, a milestone that landed on me as well. Landed on me like a rock, at that — maybe that is why they call it a mile “stone.”
Anyway, glad to have Herbie still around and part of the “geezers gone wild” bunch.
Congratulations to Herbie Fletcher for his upcoming induction into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame. Long time coming and well deserved.
Ask the expert
Q. Do you see much similarity between surfing and wakeboarding? My family just moved to Newport Beach from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and I am getting ready to try surfing for the first time. I have done a lot of wakeboarding and am hoping it will help me in learning to surf. What do you think?
Lonnie Totten, Newport Beach
A. By “wakeboarding” I am assuming that you are talking about being pulled behind a boat using a “wakeboard.” In reality, even though there are some similar moves involved and they both happen on water, that sport is way closer to water skiing than surfing. Most obviously, you are being pulled and not riding of your own power, so the whole gravity of the thing is different. Now, if you have been doing any “wakesurfing” I would say that yes, for sure you would have a leg up on learning to surf as you would already have been surfing the waves behind the boat. Just the fact that you have been doing a sport that involves balance and use of speed will help you out somewhat and you will probably get it in no time.
Good luck and welcome to the O.C.