The Rebel Next Door

Windansea, 1957. Photo: John Villarin
Laguna, 1959
California surfers, 1961. Photo: Allan Grant
Malibu, 1959. Photo: John Severson
La Jolla surfers, late '50s. Photo: Greg Noll

Maybe it was his writer’s instincts, or just plain good luck, but Frederick Kohner’s Gidget dropped into a culture that had to an unprecedented degree become fascinated with its teenagers. Very shortly, there were going to be a lot more of them, as the first wave of Baby Boomers matriculated through junior high school. But it wasn’t just the bulging demographic that caught everyone’s attention. It was the new car-crazy mobility, it was rock and roll, it was the sense of entitlement that came ...

Surfing bred some genuine rebelliousness, but mostly it produced a lot of rebel posing. Even with their bleached-blond hair, moldy fur coats, and spray-painted rattletrap cars, America’s teenage surfers as a rule remained contented sons of suburbia.