The first time I associated myself with the character “Gidget” was in junior high art class where I made a bookmark that said “Gidget” on one side and “Moondoggie” on the other– I was a romantic at an early age. I had recently seen, and fallen in love with the 1959 movie Gidget (and with it, its companions Gidget Goes Hawaiian, and Gidget Goes to Rome). In girlie games of passing notes in class, “Gidget” was often my nickname of choice. A few years later, I started surfing, probably in part so I could truly be like my “namesake.” Almost immediately, I was hooked on the sport, and despite my minimal talent I loved, and still love, being in the ocean, a place where I feel truly connected to God. By then “Gidget” was the nickname I used for notes, email, you name it.
Then, in college, I discovered that Gidget was indeed, a real person! The movies were based on a book, also called Gidget, by Frederick Kohner, who wrote it based on the experiences of his daughter, Kathy, as she learned to surf among all the guys in Malibu. I read it and of course, loved it.
The summer after I graduated from grad school, CSULB had a special event through the campus extension, a visit from Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, aka Gidget. I was probably the youngest one there in a small classroom with maybe 50 attendees. But it was amazing. She shared pictures, history and excerpts from her diaries.
Gidget is an icon in surfing; many say the Gidget movies are what catapulted surfing from a small brotherhood of guys to a mainstream phenomenon. So, in a way, I’m not really anything like Gidget. But I think there’s a part of me that still identifies with her immortal character.
Legacy is important to me. I don’t want my life to be meaningless. She didn’t mean to, but the real Gidget really changed a small corner of the world. I guess I hope I can have a lasting impact on my little corner, my home and the people who enter it.