In early August I visited Joel Patterson (TransWorld SURF editor in chief), whose office housed an unwaxed 5’10 x 18 1/2 x 2 1/4 Fletcher Four, William “Stretch Riedel’s four-finned, bat-tailed, deck-trenched creation featured in the Surfboard Science section of our August 2005 issue (“More To Love, p. 82).
Immediately I grabbed the board: “How’s this thing?
“Want it? Joel asked. “It’s been sitting here for a while. Take it and test it out.
At that moment, SoCal’s surf was one foot, onshore, and soiled with red tide—hardly prime time for surfboard devirginization, because most people think you have to have good waves the first time you ride a board. But since we know California’s summer waves suck more often than not, I thought, hey, who needs perfect waves to try a Fletcher Four?
Aboard the train back home to Carpinteria, I vowed to find the worst waves I could find and see if the Fletcher Four could hang. Because if a board performs in trash, you know it’s gonna fly when Rincon’s a glassy six feet.
Even Joel’s Surfboard Science article said the Fletcher Four rides well in “waist-high wind slop at your local beachbreak…. With that in mind, I ventured to an ominous Central California beachbreak surrounded by missile silos and satellite dishes, where I found junky overhead windswell, dark gray skies, a fast-ebbing tide (spawning loads of rip currents), freezing water, and a few big, curious sea lions which were undoubtedly being detected by a few big, hungry white sharks.
Against the concerns of my photographer girlfriend and a nice African-American family on the beach (“My man ain’t never goin’ in that water! the mom said.), I forced myself into a wet, sandy 4/3mm fullsuit and booties, then forced the Fletcher Four straight into 40 consecutive duckdives. This “wind slop was so consistent that I began to think I wouldn’t make it outside, but with the Fletcher Four’s buoyancy, I pulled it off. Fifteen minutes later.
In 20 years of surfing I’d never ridden a quad-fin, which is probably why, on my first mushy closeout, I spazzed out and ate shit, rewarded with another 40 duckdives and a mild ice cream headache. And this was California in mid-August. Yeah, I was north of Point Conception. But still.
Overall, most waves were messy brown poo turds, but I did claw into a few that afforded a few turns. I even managed a stiff floater or two and a few kooky backside butt-wiggles.
But they weren’t kooky due to the board, because the Fletcher Four absolutely hauls ass on anything surfable, like a fish, and under the right feet (maybe namesake Nathan Fletcher’s?), the board, like, totally radically shreds!
I liked its groovy feel of a twin-fin with a thruster-ish drive, and the lack of drag typical of single-fins. It’s sort of like two boards in one (twin-fin and thruster). Surfing vertically was a snap, too, and I banged a few lips (well, sort of).
I was unsure of the bat tail’s particular attributes, but it rode like a swallow tail, with forgiving release and plenty of boogie. The board handled tightly on late drops, was extremely responsive rail-to-rail, and projected nicely off the bottom. Its acceleration point seemed to happen once I’d fire down the line–again, like a fish, but with more thrust and better purchase in the pocket.
Overall it felt like a cross between a traditional fish and a high-performance thruster, if that makes sense. It probably doesn’t, so maybe you should ask Nathan Fletcher or Josh Mulcoy or Anthony Tashnick, who won this year’s Maverick’s contest on bigger version of this 5’10.
At any rate, the Fletcher Four is something special, and truly worth consideration if you’re keen for a new “surf anything board. And since fall and winter are just around the corner, you can be sure of some quality waves in which to try your new Fletcher Four.
Not that I need ’em. –Mike Kew
(Check out www.stretchboards.com for more info.)