Though women in Hawaii had been surfing for centuries, Gidget, aka Kathy Kohner of Brentwood, California, sparked a revolution among millions of American teenager girls who dreamt of surfing—not just watching the guys surf—in the late 1950s. As a 15 year-old, Kohner began hanging around with the surfers on Malibu beach, winning them over with her homemade sandwiches. Kohner’s father, a screenwriter, wrote a novel based on her breathless tales of sea and sand, and a surfer boy, Moondoggie, whom she blushingly adored. A story in Life magazine soon followed, then Sandra Dee starred in 1959’s movie version of the tale. There were sequels, a TV series. And very quickly the Malibu beach was overrun by wide-eyed groupies.
Gidget, the “girl-midget,” as the surfers liked to call her, introduced a spunky new American icon, the sporty California Surfer Girl.