Gidget, the OG Gidget, is a living icon and a member of Team Betty, and a personal friend of our founder, Donna. In the mid 1950’s a young Kathy Kohner, would spend as much time as she could at Malibu surfing and hanging out with all of the crew in what eventually became the legendary Malibu Surf Shack.
Her father, Frederick Kohner, was a screenwriter, and as he listened to stories of her daily adventures, decided to write the book “Gidget: the little girl with big ideas.” It was a success, and later became the basis for a screenplay which resulted in the Gidget Movie starring Sandra Dee, which turned into a blockbuster at the time. There were more movies and a TV show as well, starring Sally Field. This sent surfing and female involvement in it across the Nation and eventually around the world. It quite literally popularized a relatively counterculture activity.
“I met Gidget at Malibu way back in 2001 when I was visiting from Berlin, (where I still lived at the time). The two of us hit it off immediately, as we both spoke German, and shared a love of surfing and the ocean. Oddly enough, it was my now husband, David Pu’u who introduced us, as he was there to do a photoshoot with her, but that’s a whole other story. Kathy hadn’t surfed in 35 years at the time, and I was just getting started. When Kathy asked me if I’d take her out to surf, I said sure thing, of course! It was a teensy day and nobody was out (imagine that!) and the two of us paddled out for a spell. Just being in the water felt great and a memory and bond was made right then and there. To this day Kathy still introduces me to others as the friend who got her back in the water. It’s an honor I hold dear to my heart. “- Donna von Hoesslin Pu’u, Betty Belts Founder & Designer
Donna & Kathy caught up recently & asked her a couple of questions. This is just a snippet of what “the Real Gidget” shared…
What was surfing Malibu like back then?
“I started surfing in 1956. June 24 1956 was my first time out on a surfboard…The boys all had one, and I guess in a way, I wanted to do the same thing, get a board and learn to surf.I got my first board from Mile Doyle for $35. I loved it…
At Malibu, I only surfed First Point. Back then there were not a lot of surfers in the water. I did not have to compete in any way for a wave. I loved surfing, and I loved that the boys saw that I could surf. I always felt really exhilarated by being in the water and paddling and
was truly excited if I caught a wave. I was very proud of myself… Really, I was a stoked teenager… NO question about it…and Malibu was my home.
What are you up to these days?
“Today at 82 years young, I find a great deal of pleasure and fun and excitement working as the Ambassador of Aloha at Dukes Malibu. I love the title. My hubby and I go to the beach a lot. We picnic and walk on the strand. It’s great for both of us… I take piano lessons, and I am happy always to do GIDGET events and help sell my Dad’s wonderful story from 1957. I am working on getting my diary pages published with a wonderful man that is an amazing writer, Ken LaZebnik. He thinks the diary pages are great… I do a lot of cooking for my husband and myself and really just think that life is so “bitchen” now and always.”
THANK YOU Kathy! Your love affair with surfing & life literally stoked out the world. It’s truly an honor to have you on Team Betty & in our Ocean Ohana (Below: Kathy hanging out in the Betty Booth at the 2023 Queen of the Point Malibu Event)
*GIDGET BOOK SIGNING AT THE BETTY SHOP*
SUNDAY – AUGUST 27th
1pm – 4pm
Meet Kathy & get your book signed by the OG Gidget. Bring your own, or snag one at the shop. Only 50 copies available!