I’VE GOT CHRISTIAN FLETCHER I N A D E AT H G R I P A N D I ’ M N O T L E T T I N G G O . I’m on the back of his two-stroke motorbike holding on for my life as we blast down the airport road in Bali, weaving in and out of traffic. His engine lets out a chainsaw wail as we bank into a tight turn and shoot a one-foot gap between a bus and a rusty pickup truck. One drifting car, one dog in the road, one patch of loose Indo gravel, and we’re fucked. This is the kind of shit you have to expect if you want to interview Christian Fletcher. It’s an assignment that’s had me follow surfing’s aerial pioneer into the dark corners of thumping Bali nightclubs, to a sumo wrestling tournament and Metallica concert in Jakarta, and to Christian’s impromptu wedding on a cliff above Uluwatu. And I still haven’t managed to record a single word.
No, no, no. No crashes. I got precious cargo in the back now (Christian’s girlfriend, Chhum). Having a girl on the back, you know, I drive a lot slower and mellower. Still faster than the average person, but…
Lucky for me, what was originally supposed to be a three-week Bali vacation for Christian and his new wife has turned into a threemonth tour of Indo. So I was given a bonus round to try and hunt him down – 56 days to be exact, and I’ve needed every one. But Christian flies back to California tomorrow, and this time it’s for real. This is my last chance to capture some Fletcher gold. I’ve literally got him in my clutches. We just have to make it back to his hotel alive.
Let’s talk about speed, since you pretty much dusted us here on the motorbike.
I like speed. All kinds. I just refrain from doing some kinds of it now. I like riding waves that are really fast, shallow, hollow reefs. I like riding street bikes. One would think that because of the aerials and everything that I probably wanted to jump on motorbikes, but that’s the last thing I want to do. ‘Cause what goes up must come down, and you come down an inch too short and you’re fucked. I’m friends with all the freestyle dirt bike guys and they’re always hurt. Road racing, those guys usually walk away from crashes, unless it’s a highside. But down here (in Bali) it’s a different deal. You’re ridin’ in sandals and shorts, you know, so you crash and you’re fucked.
Have you ever been in a high-speed chase?
Yeah, how many tourists do you see these days all covered in bandages?
Yeah. I ride fast and I ride safe – well, pretty safe. I’m not cautious. When you’re cautious, you end up going over the falls in life in general. Cautious means you hesitate. The way I look at it is, you commit or you don’t – and I commit. When was the last time you were scared?
I’m scared on a daily basis. Walking across the street around here scares me. If you’re not scared you’re stupid. That goes for surfing and everything – if you’re not scared that means you’re dumb. Like, I love the element of danger – it makes the heart beat, makes you feel alive – but at the same time you gotta be smart about it. Driving around here is like a video game
where your life’s on the line. Shit’s scary. And I definitely don’t ride scooters ‘cause they scare the livin’ shit out of me. No clutch. No power if I need to get out of the way. Plus the way they turn, they weeble wabble – those tiny little tires and shit. That’s scary. Have you been in any motorbike accidents?
I’ve been in a few, when I lived here before. I been in four of ‘em, but none of ‘em were really my fault. I’ve been rear ended twice. I don’t like going slow – that scares me. ‘Cause slow means people are passing you and people are gonna run into you. I had another kinda head-on collision up in Jimbaran – I flew like 20 feet in the air and landed on my head. But I wear a full-face helmet usually and that saved me. My ankle was a little hurt. Other than that I was good.
Yeah. The second day she got here we were looking for helmets and my ATM card got demagnetized, or they shut it down because I was in Bali and they thought somebody was stealin’ it. And I was in Denpasar tryin’ to buy her a helmet. Well, they were stoppin’ traffic on the way out of Denpasar. The police pulled us over and I started to pull over and then I hit the gas. The cop tried to do a flying punch into her head and we went down Sunset Road the wrong way, horns honking, all the way down to the Double Six stoplight. We hooked a left, a cop on a big bike pulled up, went around him – had like a fifteen minute chase all the way into Oberoi. You lost ‘em?
Yeah. There was a lot of traffic but I got a loud horn – bam! bam! – fuckin’ in and out of traffic. And I’m going, is he still back there? She’s trying to look but her hair is flyin’ in her face. Was she freaking out?
No, no, she was all good. But she was kind of pissed, like, “Get me a fuckin’ helmet!” (laughing).