Technicolor Surf Boom

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.

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 ...

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