Imagine yourself at 11—you know, that age when you weren’t quite a teen, but you were more than a little kid. Kinda cool amongst your friends but completely, uncomfortably awkward around anyone else. Add to that the extra baggage of your parents’ divorce. Now that you have that vision hovering in your mind’s eye, think of getting on a train in Anglet, on the Basque Coast in France, and heading to Les Arcs, Bourg-Saint-Maurice in the Alps, for a snowboard event with 20 of the most outrageous, hard-partying surfers, skaters and snowboarders, all competing to win the coveted prize of being known as the best all-around action-sports hero and a $25,000 first-place check. Also along for the ride are the photographers, writers, contest officials and hangers-on who are always around to fuel the party atmosphere. Oh, but wait, not to worry—you’re with your dad, Christian Fletcher, who is well known in the industry for his punk-rock attitude.
This was 2002, and the whole surf-skate-snow scene was a lot different. Quiksilver had come of age using the slogan “If you can’t rock and roll, don’t f@#$in come,” and their three-sport event in France was to prove a real testament to the adage. It was a very select group of “go for it” pros who were the invitees. Not many people were good enough in all three disciplines to compete on a professional level: Nathan Fletcher had won the event the previous year, and he was joined this year by his brother Christian, who would also be competing. Greyson, a quiet kid by nature, had been skating and snowboarding for years, so he was physically up to the adventure, but this was no after-school, parentally sanctioned event.
Of course, that train ride wasn’t without its pitfalls, but when he was 15 I got him a starring role in an HBO series, after they green-lighted my story pitch—an event that proved a lot more physically detrimental to the boy. Maybe the difference was a $220 million budget compared to a $25,000 purse. Most of the people in that multimillion-dollar deal appeared to be a more educated bunch, their speech was certainly refined and their social graces finely polished, giving them an air of sophistication such that their constant double-dealing and backstabbing wasn’t so apparent to the untrained eye. It would be a cautionary lesson about trusting guys in pressed jeans. At least with the hard-partying action-sports devotees on the train, you knew exactly where you stood.
By 18, Greyson had seen two extremely different views of the world, from a very rarefied point of view, and he had the most interesting personal trait of being able to be there in the flesh and yet be completely indifferent to his surroundings—a trait that for better or worse probably helped him on his bizarre journey into the world of young adulthood. He had no formal education, couldn’t drive, had no money, no place to live and ended up coming to stay with Herbie and me. He came to work with his dad at Astrodeck, the family business, shipping surf pads to accounts. He didn’t get it at first, but it didn’t take him long to figure it out. He was in business college, and we were helping him build his personal career path. Most people may scoff, thinking that being a skateboarder is just about skating, but like every short-lived sports career, it’s a lot more complicated, and to have any staying power you better know all the rules, not just the ones at the contest.
Of course, there were advantages for Greyson, in that he had name recognition, and of course, there were disadvantages for Greyson, in that he had name recognition. Everywhere he went he was surrounded by people who were ready to judge him based on good or bad experiences they had (or felt they had) with one of us or all of us, whatever the case may or may not have been. He had great natural talent, and with a little support and guidance he could easily stand as his own man.
He and Christian started skating or surfing every day after work and spent most of the time at work screwing around on computers. They were better off out on the road filming than being in a warehouse. I sent them on surf and skate demos to Florida, Oregon, Hawaii and Europe. While they were out working with photographers, I reached out to people I knew to get Greyson the sponsorship he would need to have a successful career as a skateboarder. He has been helped along the way by some great brands, but it’s his talent and drive that made it all possible.
Hindsight supposedly being 20/20, do I think that train ride was a good idea? (Not that I could have changed anyone’s decision at the time.) YES! Greyson has had a very interesting path on the road to self-discovery, and going back mentally to “what if” is a fool’s game at best. It seems incredible to think that young, timid kid is the guy who just spent weeks in Australia competing in some of the great pool-riding events on the professional circuit, then flew off to Bali to surf the waves of his life and solidify his place as one of the stars in a very select group of action-sports heroes. I asked him recently about that long-ago train ride. We laughed and he said, “I think it was like looking through a kaleidoscope into my future. Crazy, huh?”