Technicolor Surf Boom

Frankie and Annette in Beach Party
Sanda Dee in Gidget, 1959
Gidget promo, 1959
Dora (left) and Noll, in Ride the Wild Surf. Photo: Church

Surfing had generated a lot of momentum by 1959—new boards, wetsuits, competition, surfer-produced films; a magazine on the way—and the sport was at a tipping point. Then the movie version of Gidget was released in April of that year and pushed it over the top. A nine-year surf explosion followed. Wave-riding itself became more popular, yes. But the boom was mostly a cultural phenomenon, one that spread to the near and far reaches of teenage consumerism. Tens of thousands of young people slow...

Surfing returned to the silver screen as glorious farce. Frankie and his surf buddies rode to shore in a pack, while Annette and her girlfriends waved from the beach. Everybody clustered up and danced the Watusi, then set about defeating a biker gang, or space aliens, or a rogue pack of bodybuilders.