You’d open up SURFER magazine and see them every month. The surf stars, whose names and faces had become synonymous with high performance surfing, with fame, glamour and fortune: Irons, Fletcher, Hamilton, Young, Beschen, Padaca, Sutherland, Heussenstamm, Surratt, Kennelly, Fitzgerald. In the ads, selling board shorts, shoes, wetsuits and shoes. On the surf trips to exotic new waves, getting the centerspreads and the cover shots. Surf stars, heroes, role models…dads.
That’s right, every one of them. Because the era we’re talking about here is the late ’60s, early ’70s, when the fathers of some of today’s most famous surf stars were basking in the limelight themselves. Now, for the first time in the sport’s history, the children of some of our greatest matinee idols have grown up to become big stars in their own right. And in doing so, in taking their illustrious father’s place on center stage, each one of these second (and in some cases third) generation celebrities serves to challenge one of surf industry marketing machinery’s most sacred tenets, one that relentlessly, aggressively programs us to believe that surfing is merely a youth sport.
These young surfers provide the obvious answer: that yes, surfing is a youth sport–the ultimate youth sport. The question, however, is who’s youth are we talking about?
“When I was 17, I wasn’t even thinking about having kids,” says 53 year-old Herbie Fletcher, father of renowned aerialists Christian and Nathan. In 1966, Herbie, known as “The Kid,” was on the island of Maui, starring in MacGillivray/Freeman’s surf film Free and Easy.
“My thoughts were…well, I had just got back from the Monterey Pop Festival, or something like that, and here I was in Hawaii gettin’ paid to surf for a movie. I mean, I wasn’t even thinking about it, man–I didn’t want to get married or anything until I was 28.”