“I Believe I Can Fly” is the latest History of Surfing chapter, and it gets into those critical but frequently awkward early years of the aerial. Much of the piece has to do with Christian Fletcher and Matt Archbold, and in an Instagram post last week I said that, of the two, Arch had the greater surfing gift. I stand by that remark but should have clarified.
I lived in San Clemente during the mid- and late-’80s, and watched both of them a lot, usually at Lowers, although Matt would come down and grovel at T-Street now and then. (Christian didn’t, and who can blame him; apart from the fact that it was marginally ridable 360 days a year, T-Street is a waste of sandstone). Anyway, yes, Fletcher did more than Matt to push the air game. He was driven, inventive, persistent. He was also kind of one-sided. Christian would set up a Lowers Lefts end section from 25 yards distant. It was like watching a fastball pitcher with a really long slow deliberate wind-up. As exciting as it was to see, Christian’s surfing to me always came across as a kind of novelty act.
Matt, on the other hand, was just flat-out amazing to behold, airs or no airs. He was a surfing genius. He processed what needed to go into a ride way faster than the rest of us, and his line was both flowing and radical. With Christian, you could see him thinking it through. Matt was mindless, but in the best way, like a big cat sprinting across the veldt. Tom Curren was the only surfer I ever saw in person who had that degree of natural talent. This video doesn’t do justice to either Christian or Matt, but watch anyway, and see if what I’m saying makes any sense.
Rory Russell finally gets his Above the Roar page, click here. His video was begging for a do-over as well, and pairing The Dog with George Clinton’s “Atomic Dog” was the best and easiest decision I made all week. I always liked how Rory, whenever he talked about friend and mentor Gerry Lopez, put the accent on the “pez.” Everybody else said LOW-pez, but Rory, and only Rory, said Lo-PEZ, which sounds kind of foreign and for some reason pushes the needle on Gerry’s coolness even further into the red. Or maybe it just puts me in mind of Lola Montez, stunning 19th-century femme fatale, lover of kings and dukes and horsewhipper of critics. Rory would have loved her.
Anyway, click here, watch, and roll over for the Dog. Forty-something years past his heyday, Rory Russell is still a treat for the eyes.
Thanks everybody, and see you next week.
[Photo of Lopez and Russell by John Witzig]