She doesn't ride the California waves much anymore, but Kathy Kohner Zuckerman still holds tight to the longboard that made her--and surfing--famous.

By Paige Porter
October 01, 2003
Fran Gealer

In her Pacific Palisades home, not far from where she learned tosurf, the real Gidget grows nostalgic. In her hands is a diary from1956, when the only thing that mattered was the size of thewaves.

Learning to surf: "I often wandered to the pier at Malibuand watched the boys surfing there. I decided I must have my ownboard, so I bought one from Mike Doyle for $35. I went out with thefellows every day and I taught myself how to surf. It was veryphysical, very demanding, but I felt a high every time. Then I'dcome home at night and write about it."

That name: "All the fellows had nicknames in Malibu:Moondoggie, Golden Boy, Beetle, the Jaw. One day one of the guyscalled me 'Gidget.' He said I was a girl and a midget. [She's 5feet, 1 inch tall.] The name stuck."

Novel idea: "My father was a screenwriter, and a goodlistener, too. I had grown so fascinated with this culture atMalibu Point that one day I told him I wanted to write a storyabout it. He suggested I tell him the details and he'd write it.And he did―in six short weeks. My father was Czechoslovakian,and I still think it's amazing that he so aptly captured a piece ofAmerican culture."

Gidget fame: "After the book came out, and then the movieand TV show, everything changed in Malibu. It became such a popularspot. As uncomfortable as the attention made me feel, now I embraceit, simply because the book [recently re-released] and its storykeep my father alive for me."

Grown-up Gidget: "I surfed at Waikiki on my 60th birthday,but I don't ride the waves much anymore. I spend most of my time upat Duke's Malibu, a restaurant with a surfer theme. I'm a hostessthere, and I love every minute of it. It keeps me talking aboutthis wonderful adventure."