THE FLETCHER FAMILY, OFTEN CALLED “THE FIRST FAMILY OF SURFING,” IS RENOWNED FOR ITS DYNAMIC MEN, BUT AT THEIR HEART IS THE EXTRAORDINARY DIBI FLETCHER.
“I’ve always been an achiever, but not in a predictable way. I didn’t like school; I didn’t like the kids in it. I always felt like an outsider. I ran away with Herbie when I was 16. And then you better have pedal to the metal, honey! No education, no skills, and it was just the two of us. And so we ended up doing all this stuff—maybe we were too dumb to know we couldn’t.”
That’s Dibi Fletcher, telling how the Fletcher dynasty came to be. Dibi is a fireball of a conversationalist, blond hair framing her vibrant face, chunk jewelry accentuating her expressive hands, a voice of great empathy yet great force. She punctuates her observations with screeching laughter. She asks big questions, then throws her hands up to the sky. She exudes a sense of absurdity, as if perpetually flabbergasted by the mysteries, ironies and atrocities of life.
We are sitting in Dibi’s office in San Clemente, California, which is decorated with family pictures and Dibi’s paintings and sculptures. The Herbie she refers to is her husband of 47 years, Herbie Fletcher, surf wizard, founder of Astrodeck traction pads, producer of the Wave Warriors video series. They have two sons: Christian, 45, aerial surf icon since the late ’80s, and Nathan, 40, champion surfer/skater/snowboarder/dirt bike rider. And two grandsons: Greyson, 24, son of Christian, is one of the world’s best skateboarders. Laser, son of Nathan, is only 2, but he’s already surfing, skateboarding and occasionally riding around on uncle Christian’s Harley. And that’s not even mentioning Dibi’s sister Joyce, ’65 and ’66 world surf champion; dad Walter Hoffman, big-wave pioneer; and uncle Flippy Hoffman, surf-world rapscallion.
#fletcherdna, as Dibi ends her Instagram posts, is something extraordinary. They are perhaps the most influential family in surfing history. I first met them in the early ’80s when Christian, Nathan and I were on the amateur circuit. I’d see them at contests between San Diego and Santa Cruz. They were eccentric. Dibi had pink hair and wore loud outfits. Herbie was an eternal teenager, pulling crazy tricks on a canary-yellow longboard. Once, Christian invited me up to their truck for a bite to eat. Dibi, clad in bright-colored tights and flashy running shoes, served us an avocado and alfalfa sprouts sandwich on whole wheat bread. Most everyone I knew at that time ate junk food. Dibi was a strict vegetarian. “This is the good stuff,” she explained, and went on about the value of healthy eating. “Okay, I’m out of here,” she said, handing Christian the car keys. Then she trotted off on what I would learn was her daily run—12 to 13 miles in soft sand.
And that’s the Dibi Fletcher I’ve known for over three decades—always deeply immersed in some giant passion. First it was running and vegetarianism, then it was painting and sculpture, then it was ballroom dancing, then real estate, then gemology. Today she runs the family business, Astrodeck, and writes, and cycles 25 miles a day.
“When I get interested in something I just get immersed in it,” she says. “I get every book I can find on it and I get up at 4:30 every morning and read for a couple of hours.”
Astrodeck HQ sits atop an industrial district in San Clemente, the small beach town that’s been home to the Fletchers for as long as I’ve known them. Five years ago, with the economy in a horrible place, Dibi took the helm of the business, which started in 1976, so that Herbie could focus on his art career. “My family is my biggest achievement,” she says. “We’ve done it our way. And my best talent is to see where something is needed in my family and to come in and fulfill that role.”
I ask her what it’s like being surrounded by action men who charge giant waves and ollie over tall buildings. Before I can finish she chimes in: “Why do you think I turned out the way I am? Was I going to be the delegated chief? Fuck you, I’ll fight you for chief!” We share a big laugh.
“I really wanted to keep Astrodeck going,” she says. “Herbie invented it. He did a lot of firsts in the surf industry and certainly didn’t make the money that a lot of the others did. And I thought it was very important to keep this, as part of a legacy. And I’m not afraid to work. I don’t care if it’s not glamorous. My UPS driver did say I’m the best-dressed person on his route! I said, ‘Of course I am, darling!’ ” She giggles. “But anyway, I’m not a quitter. I never give up.”