Art in Motionby Jeela Ongley
Wave-Inspired at The Waikiki EDITION
“THERE ARE TWO PIECES OF ART IN THE ENTIRE HOTEL. That’s one,” says general manager Michael Rock, pointing to an angular conglomeration of stickered, painted, broken surfboards behind the sleek, hand-lathed front desk of the The Waikiki EDITION hotel. The wall-mounted sculpture is the only jagged edge in the otherwise understated lobby.
Artist Herbie Fletcher, a 63-year-old elder statesman of surfing, calls his piece “Pipeline Wrecktangle” because it is literally a tangle of boards that have been wrecked by professional surfers in competition on Oahu’s North Shore.
“It’s life and death every time you jump in the water there,” explains the artist. “Each one of those surfboards has been through a lot.”
In a testament to the authenticity and interest the sculpture brings to the beach house cool of the The Waikiki EDITION, visitors often stop to take photos and scrutinize the famous names scrawled on some of the boards. It is a very familiar scene here under whitewashed wood ceilings and surrounded by comfortable, natural fabrics.
“When people walk in here and say, ‘This is really cool, you have surfboards’-” Rock pauses dramatically, “I tell them ‘Let me tell you about Herbie.’”
Herbie Fletcher came to Hawai’i from California in the mid-’60s to surf uncrowded North Shore waves. Self-assured and fearless, he made his name longboarding big waves and was an early forerunner of the daredevil sport of tow-in surfing. He married into a surfing family and bought a company called Astrodeck, a line of surf traction pads (which he still owns with his wife, Dibi).
A series of Wave Warriors surf videos produced by Fletcher in the ’80s and ’90s-which featured big names as well as up-and-coming surfers (including his sons Christian and Nathan)-attained a cult following. Fletcher’s video work, which he called “made by a surfer for real surfers,” also is featured on a half-dozen mini screens throughout the EDITION lobby.
“I find my inspiration in the water,” says Fletcher of his passions for filmmaking, sculpture, painting and photography. “It’s beautiful seeing all the different things going on below, moving around, always changing. It’s sparkling all over the place, if you’re open to look at it.”
Tucked away in the cozy penthouse suite, a series of 15 epic photos by Fletcher tells a story of world champion surfer Kelly Slater dropping in the tube at Teahupoo in Tahiti… and chugging a beer as he emerges.
“I like hanging out at the beach and shooting pictures of the surfers,” he says of his drive to go where the action is. “I shoot a lot of film and use a lot of photos in my paintings.”
Fletcher’s blossoming artistic success has undoubtedly reached new heights thanks to his long-standing friendship with renowned painter Julian Schnabel.
“We travel the world-surfing and painting along the way,” Fletcher says, speaking proudly of their adventures and artistic collaborations.
And while many of those around him are planning a quiet retirement, Fletcher intimates that the best is yet to come.