He was “Mellow Cat” to the skate world. The surfers called him “Archie.” He surfed beautifully, with a smooth “Frye-ish” style, a mid-’60s maestro of words, charm, and Mensa-level intelligence, and a poet to any woman he befriended on the boardwalk at La Jolla Shores. A local girl named Angie, for example, was renamed “Fawn of the Moon.”
He treated all contributors during his reign as an editor at SURFER—and also as an integral part of Skateboarder—with a politeness that many still remember. He loved jazz and obscure rock. He would formally invite you to drive him up the hill to his house on Soledad Mountain to enjoy an obscure background-drumming lick on the latest T. Rex album, piped through his parents’ stereo. Over and over. His mom described his informal group of musician friends as, “better than a barking dog.”
In our cliquish group, he was known for his boyhood room, which had a large wall full of Skip Frye, black-and-white 8×10 prints. Friends always wanted to visit the Frye wall. By the mid-’70s he had left his surfboard in the garage, leaving surfing behind.
As editor at SURFER, he filled and stylized the magazine with his verbal accounts and captions. Publisher Steve Pezman once called him the soul of the magazine. “Kurt’s stretch at SURFER and Skateboarder would become an indelible part of the lore of both magazines,” he says. Surfers from Malibu to San Diego knew and loved him. Seeing him actually surf only added to the respect.
After a long night of partying for Pezman’s 50th birthday party at San Onofre, I took Kurt home to my house to sleep it off. He wanted me to stay awake. I asked him to lower the volume of the Tejano music station he had found on the radio. He played the love songs until the early hours.
The next morning I found a crumpled napkin with a deeply thoughtful poem written on it, evidence of his late-night musings. By 9 a.m. we were at 7-11 for a six-pack, and thus prepared for the long drive back to La Jolla. He’d only been gone for a single evening, but when we arrived in the Windansea parking lot, a social swirl developed to welcome him back. He went to the nearest pay phone to call his mom and let her know he was OK.
No one who had met or knew Kurt will ever forget him. We loved him.
Condolences to his loving sisters Karen, Arlene, and family.
R.I.P. Kurt Ledterman, a.k.a. Archie, a.k.a. Mellow Cat. You will certainly be missed.—Jeff Divine
Kurt “Mellow Cat” Ledterman, a character too big for life, was adapted into a cartoon strip that ran in Skateboarder Magazine from 1978 to 1981.