Nathan Fletcher: Heavy Water and a helicopter
The Nathan Fletcher biopic 'Heavy Water' begins its Australian premiere this week. Fletcher has impeccable surfing lineage: grandson to Waimea pioneer and surfing industrialist Walter Hoffman, nephew to world and US champion Joyce Hoffman, son of Astro Deck founder Herbie Fletcher, and brother of aerial whiz Christian.
Yet despite the crowded family tree, Nathan has managed to get noticed, and seemingly without trying, owing largely to his approach to big waves.
Director Michael Oblowitz - who made 'Sea of Darkness' - has called his latest film a meditation on death and extreme sports, but Nathan is much more coy about what the film represents. He only signed on so he could jump out of a helicopter.
Swellnet rang Fletcher at his Hawaiian home where there was much laughter and noise in the background. We only found out afterwards it was Fletcher's birthday.
Swellnet: You're not very active on social media. In fact, it seems the only time you appear in the media is during XXL swell events. Do you deliberately hang back in the shadows?
Nathan: Yeah, I don't want to go out and wave the flag. I don't like Instagram or all that. I don't want to put a bunch of pressure on myself. I just do this because I love it. It's my passion. It's what I grew up doing...really, it's what my purpose is on this Earth.
What do you mean?
So, my purpose isn't to take pictures, it's not to do interviews, it's not to, uh, you know, do business. It's not to send e-mails. My business is to go out and surf, and so that's what I strive for. The reason I love it is 'cause it makes me feel like a seven-year-old kid whenever I hit the water.
Is dodging the limelight a product of being Herbie Fletcher's son and Christian Fletcher's little brother? They were both big personalities.
Yeah, it could give you a complex. Dad is a big self-promoter, though he still worked every single day. I could go home to a family dinner and I got Joyce Hoffman, Christian Fletcher, Herbie Fletcher, Walter Hoffman, and all these people sitting down for Christmas dinner. You think you're something special among them? No way. It keeps you humble, it makes you realise that you're not the gnarliest surfer going. Not even close! Surfers have been doing gnarly things forever.
You know, I could care less what people think of me, to be honest with you, and I ain't gonna go tell people my story, but now my life's changing and so I'm at a different place with this movie and everything.
Tell me how it's different.
I'm trying to grow up socially, mentally....I don't want to take this [movie] for granted. I didn't go out looking for it, but, you know, I have the greatest gratitude and honour for what is happening. I'm super thankful and fortunate. It's a blessing that people before me didn't get. You know what I mean?
Surfers who weren't recognised, you mean?
How did this project get started?
Well, Michael [Oblowitz] was doing a movie on Sunny [Garcia] and he wanted to do an interview with me so I was like, "Sure, I'll do an interview." So I did the interview, told him my story, which was part of my life story with Sion [Milosky], Andy [Irons], lots of people I've known, and I busted into tears and told him the story of what really happened and he called me back a couple days later and said, "Nathan we got a movie in here".
What was your reaction?
I told him nobody's gonna wanna watch my life story. But he was persistent, you know, so I said, "I'll do it, if you can get me to jump out of a helicopter."
Jump out of a helicopter? That was the condition for appearing..?
Yeah, sure. But anyway, I was like, "Yeah right, this guy ain't gonna fucking do that," but sure enough, he's all, "Okay, we can do it. We can pull this off."
That's how he got a hold of me and that's how the movie happened.
You just wanted to jump out of a helicopter?
Well yeah, it was just something I dreamt of for a long time. I just threw it out there because I had the opportunity and he bit, so...but the funny thing was I didn't think about all the things that go into jumping out of a helicopter.
So when it came down to it, jumping out of a helicopter is very different than what I imagined. But I got the job done. I did it on the day I had to do it, with a permit, with insurance, with cameras, with the boats, with the water, all of it and everything riding on me. And I actually pulled it off. So, I was pretty happy with that.
Was it the highest acid drop you've done?
You've done higher?
Oh yeah, much higher. Just off a cliff and stuff, and just doing it for fun. I wasn't doing it under the pressure of somebody making a movie with Redbull Media.
Were you aware of Michael's reputation before you met him? Have you seen 'Sea of Darkness'?
Oh sure. But you know, when I'm doing something with him I ain't thinking about what he's done in the past. I'm only worried if he's doing what he says going to do and that he'll follow through with the job.
And did he?
He did better than I could have ever expected. He followed through on everything he said he would. It turned out much better than I imagined because when you get Hollywood involved it can get real weird. So I'm happy that I gave him the blessing to tell my story, 'cause I never thought it was gonna be as good as it is
The remaining Australian dates for 'Heavy Water' are:
- Tues 11 June – Event Cinemas, George St, Sydney
- Wed 12 June – Event Cinemas, Miranda
- Thursday 14 June – The Jam Factory, Melbourne