Surf Legend Nathan Fletcher on Traveling for the Perfect Wave

The tumultuous life and times of death-defying surfer Nathan Fletcher come alive in the surfing documentary Heavy Water.

Extreme Sports

Extreme Sports

The threat of death is ever present for surfers like Nathan Fletcher, who chase big waves around the world.

Photo by: Brian Bielmann

Brian Bielmann

The threat of death is ever present for surfers like Nathan Fletcher, who chase big waves around the world.

Pipeline royalty, Nathan Fletcher comes from a long line of surfing greats. His father Herbie introduced tow-in surfing to the big wave world and brother Christian brought the hang-time aerial leaps and spins of skateboarding to surfing.

Surf Legend Nathan Fletcher

Surf Legend Nathan Fletcher

Paddle-in surfing pioneer Nathan Fletcher is the focus of a new documentary about his unique surf style, Heavy Water.

Photo by: Orson Oblowitz

Orson Oblowitz

Paddle-in surfing pioneer Nathan Fletcher is the focus of a new documentary about his unique surf style, Heavy Water.

A big wave innovator In his own right whose paddle-in surfing style changed the game, Nathan has spent a lifetime on the water and has traveled to some of the most picturesque (and dangerous) surf spots in the world. "Surfing is not easy and it's not for the weak," says Fletcher of his travels to Indonesia, France and Tahiti where his 2011 ride on a Teahupo'o killer wave has become legend. "None of us could understand how Nathan survived" his photographer that day Brian Bielmann told The Guardian newspaper, after Nathan was tossed like wet laundry in the swell.

Travel Channel chatted with Nathan about his documentary Heavy Water which recounts his adventures including a2017 Acid Drop into Hawaiian big waves from a helicopter.

Where's home?

I live on the North Shore of Hawaii. I'm on a permanent vacation.

Sounds like the surfer's life...

Yeah, you're a professional tourist.

What's the most beautiful beach you've ever seen?

I have to say Tahiti for white sand and scenery; the scenery is unbeatable.

Professional Surfer Nathan Fletcher

Professional Surfer Nathan Fletcher

Fletcher riding his board into the next wave on a jet ski.

Photo by: Hank Foto

Hank Foto

Where do you go for the best waves?

Theyve found waves all over the world. One of the bnest world class waves is in Namibia in the middle of the desert. Hawaii; the North Shore. Tahiti they're barrier reefs so the waves are really good but you have to paddle or take a small boat which is half a mile or quarter mile out. It depends on what you're looking for.

Where is the best place fo people who are more armchair surf fans to go to watch incredible surfing action?

The Banzai Pipeline is world renowned. It's like a stadium.

What's your primary obsession when you're not surfing?

I would have to say my kids at this point in my life; 3 and 5. I love to take them to the beach and do what I did as a kid.

There's no better place for a kid to play than the beach, it's like a giant sandbox...and it's clean too. It's the best filter system in the world, the beach and the sand, like a charcoal filter.

Is there something that unites surfers?

I can't speak for anybody else. I can only speak for myself. But there's something about going into the ocean when you're an adult and you have all of these responsibilities. As soon as you hit the ocean you turn into a six-year-old kid. This person you always are, this guy you are in your dreams where you don't grow old. It just puts you in this now moment. Basically it's like going to the fountain of youth.

There's nothing more refreshing for your soul.

Do you have an exercise routine?

I work out three days a week. I wake up real early, I wake up at 4:30 a.m. I do my yoga for an hour, from 5 to 6, then I make my coffee and the family wakes up. And three days a week I go with my friends and work out. Then I surf usually once or twice a day for about an hour at a time.

Besides your surfboard what do you abosolutely have to take with you when you travel?

Probably my yoga mat.

How hard is it to travel with surfboards?

It's miserable! Have you ever seen a guy in the airport with a surfboard? Then the bigger the wave, the bigger the boards. So then you get such big boards you can't fit your small boards in with your big boards. Then you show up with them in places, in the middle of Indonesia and they're looking at you.

You get a lot of weird looks. You have to have your straps and be ready...'But I've got straps! Put it on the roof, it's no problem, we do this.' So then you have to talk people into doing stuff that they're totally against.

I never thought about the practicality of getting them from the airport to your hotel.

Oh yeah! It's actually ridiculous but it turns into being fun. Because some people work with you, some people don't. Some people look at you like you're crazy, some people laugh. It's part of the adventure of travel.

Helicopter Drops Surfer

Helicopter Drops Surfer

Surfer Nathan Fletcher innovated the practice of dropping a surfer into a wave via helicopter.

Photo by: Brian Bielmann

Brian Bielmann

Surfer Nathan Fletcher innovated the practice of dropping a surfer into a wave via helicopter.

So it's an instant connection with the locals?

That's the other thing with surfing. You don't really stay on the surface. To find the waves you've got to know the locals and to know the locals you have to be cool. That's how you find the right waves at the right time.

How do you kill time on a long flight?

I'm not a huge fan of flying so I try to sleep but I usually end up reading or sometimes watching a movie.

Window or aisle?

If I want to try to sleep, I'll go for a window. But if I want to be able to get up, then it's the aisle seat.

Last great trip you took?

I recently took a trip to Portugal and that was awesome. I also love Australia— having a great time here right now.

Kelly Slater's man-made wave pool is pretty astounding but is there anything else new in the surfing world you are excited about?

I'm super excited about everything that's happening in surfing right now. The wave pool at Waco, Texas is really epic too and it's been said that one day the biggest waves will be man-made. I'm looking forward to that.

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