Nathan Fletcher’s Most Valuable Pipeline Gun

What he rode, Hawaii edition

Photo: Russo
On the North Shore, Nathan Fletcher and his limited edition “Blind Girl Surf Club” masterpiece of a gun. Photo: Russo

NATHAN FLETCHER
HEIGHT:
5’10” (1.78m)
WEIGHT: 180 lbs. (81.64kg)

SHAPER: Bill "Stretch" Riedel
LENGTH: 9’2″
WIDTH: 20″
THICKNESS: 3.35″
VOLUME: 67.8L
NOSE WIDTH: 13.3″
TAIL WIDTH: 13″
NOSE ROCKER: 6.1″
TAIL ROCKER: 3.6″
TAIL: Squash
CONCAVE: Panel vee to spiral vee

FINS: Futures Stretch Quad
HEIGHT: 4″
BASE: 3.88″
AREA: 12.39″

Last year on the North Shore, famed artist Julian Schnabel painted one of Nathan Fletcher's Pipeline guns with his iconic Blind Girl Surf Club image. Schnabel has recreated the portrait of a girl with a black line over her eyes on various surfcraft over the years, usually for close friends and occasionally for charity auctions (one Blind Girl board went for $75,000 at a Surfrider event). But rather than hanging the valuable craft on his wall, Fletcher opted to use the board the way it was intended: to paddle into Second Reef bombs. "I've ridden it a couple times at big Pipe and it works really well," says Fletcher. "I got a couple barrels on it and the paint started peeling off, but I'm going to keep riding it. I didn't get the board to hang on my wall. Besides, I know Julian would rather have me ride it anyway." Below, shaper Bill "Stretch" Riedel breaks down Fletcher's prized Pipe gun:

What kind of waves was this board made for?

This model is called the Buzz Gun and it's made for Second and Third Reef Pipe, and for the outer reefs. The idea behind the shape is to allow you to paddle extremely fast. It's really full in the nose, really full in the tail, and narrow in the midsection. Some of the concepts actually came from shortboards that we made with Nathan that had fuller noses and tails and were much shorter than normal. We were making 5’5″s and 5’4″s, and then he made a 5’0″ that we nicknamed "Mr. Buzz" after his dog. It's the ugliest dog I've ever seen, but Nathan loves it. That board kind of opened my eyes to some ideas for big-wave boards as well.

What materials did you use?

This one is made of cork and bamboo with a Styrofoam core. The bottom of the board is skinned with a sheet of bamboo, and the top and rails are cork. Under compression, that cork really absorbs chop. The North Shore is notorious for getting chatter on the face, especially Second or Third Reef Pipe. This construction really helps smooth the ride out.

Does Nathan exclusively ride quads?

Pretty much. A while back he said that he might want to try a tri-fin again, but he changed his mind before he did. Quads don't have brakes, and it's really hard to slow down a true quad, but Nathan doesn't care. For him, the faster, the better. He's unusual in that he can handle turns at those speeds. For this board, he's using four same-sized fins, which are 4 inches. Smaller fins are actually better for big waves, although a lot of people assume the opposite. When you're moving at high speeds, less surface area is more efficient. When he's towing at maxed-out Teahupoo, he'll be on 3-3/4- inch fins, front and back.

What is the most important design element when making a board for serious North Shore conditions?

Every single detail is important when you're making these boards. Someone's life is in your hands. You can't just say that it needs to paddle well, hold the face well, be smooth on the bottom turn, or handle chop. It really needs everything to work exactly right. Especially on the outer reefs, where a bad fall creates a life-or-death situation.

Photo: Russo
He could make $75K with it, or he could go get really barreled. Fletcher opts for the latter. Photo: Russo