In 1976, Herbie Fletcher had an idea that would revolutionize surfing… Through trial and error, and with the world’s best surfers behind him, Herbie created Astrodeck, the traction pad company that would set the industry standard. We sat down with the guru of deck grip to talk about his failures, successes, and how the youth are helping to develop the next generation of traction.
When you started Astrodeck, did you have any idea of the success it would have?
Yeah, I knew it, because I’m a surfer, I’m an inventor, and I believe in it. The others out there aren’t surfers-they’re in their cubicles making new designs. They don’t know anything about surfing. I worked with all the surfers. Before Chris Malloy came out with OAM, he was riding for me. They all learned from me. Kelly Slater, I showed him how to make grips, and he came out with K Grip.
So was Astrodeck an immediate success?
In the early days, we did the full decks and tried to get it out there, but it was really hard, because nobody really understood it. The good surfers did, but I was going out of business I think in ’81 and I just said, “Screw it…I can’t do this anymore. Nobody really understands it, and I’m totally into designs and shapes anyway.”
But then the punk revolution happened and Astrodeck took off.
Yeah, I made this whole punk-traction stuff that was black and pink. Then I put an ad in SURFER Magazine, and it blew up. They were little squares that had the punk look going on. Everybody thought of it as a fashion statement and not so much as a function. But we used to put it all over the tail.
How did you figure out the correct material you wanted to use? Was it trial and error?
Well, first off we started with urethane, because we were trying to make it super light. And then we got it clear and so light, but then we wanted it thicker so our toes could go into it more. So we checked out this sandal material, and got into the different Avia’s (running shoe company). And then we came up with this stuff [two ridges that go straight up and down to catch your feet] and started putting treads on it like you would a running shoe.
How do guys like John John, Christian, and Nathan affect your technology?
A lot of the kids come in here and help me design certain things, and I help them think about it. Just like Slater-I helped him a lot with his traction in his early days. The Irons brothers, they just love stuff.
What do you think will be the next innovation in traction technology?
Well, something that’s already happened-people just weren’t onto it yet. These things [points to the kicker on the traction pad] will turn into little hooks, so you can go upside down and stuff.