June 17, 2013
Posted on May 24, 2011
Some time later, I accompanied Gidget on a return to Malibu. It was a perfect day, not too crowded. “Good waves,” Gidget said. Then, as we walked past The Pit and toward the now-vacant site of the shack, she said, “Jeez, did you see that?” She took off her sandals. The site obviously emanated powerful tribal crosscurrents not detectable by outsiders. “Oh, my God,” Gidget shrieked. “There’s Mysto.” Mysto George had been surfing Malibu since 1954, never missing a good day, long after many of Gidget’s contemporaries had drifted away, long after younger surfers had quit the scene, because the waters now carry raw sewage. In full wetsuit and neoprene cap, with the blazing, sea-blue eyes certain surfers have, George was carrying his dinged-up longboard, ready to paddle back out. “Looks bitchin,’ ” Gidget said. “Yeah,” he said. “You wanna surf?” Gidget said she had been thinking about getting back to it. Later that day, she took her board to the shop for repairs.
A few days after that, a special commemorative issue of Surfer magazine hit the stands. Gidget was No. 7 in a list of the 25 most important surfers of the 20th century, a bold move on the part of the premier journal of surf culture, which generally retains a seafaring, “ye har mateys” cosmology that ranks women with the weather—strange forces to be reckoned with, but not so primary as to be included on the important census lists that are surfing’s equivalent of who gets tapped for the Rapture. Gidget was one of only two women in the list. She ranked not far below Duke Kahanamoku, the universally adored Hawaiian father of modern surfing, and higher than Mickey Dora, revered king of surf style. Gidget’s placement near these gods stunned some members of the surf establishment, but the deed had been done: The unassuming surfer girl was finally getting her due from those whose livelihoods she had fueled. As the century turned, and major figures and groups began apologizing to each other for decades of mistreatment and abuse, maybe in preparation for an apocalypse or maybe just because it was time, it was nice to know that Gidget had finally made the cut.
POSTSCRIPT: Some time after I had met Gidget and learned her story and about the existence of her father’s novella, I suggested that it should be reissued. She agreed. We took it to Kathleen Anderson, my agent at the time, who sold the book to Penguin. The new edition has a foreword by Gidget and a preface by me, which includes an abbreviated account of our meeting.
Since its publication in 2001, Gidget has reclaimed her story, crisscrossing the country, speaking at surfing events and in bookstores, paddling out, riding waves, uncorking her bottled message for a new wave of girl surfers.
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