There’s a certain corner of Payson Library, somewhere near the 19th century English literature, where the astute visitor will notice a scent in the air that seems out of place. Fiberglass and surfwax? Yes, somewhere up above in its second-floor sanctuary resides the John Mazza Collection of Historic Surfboards, a secret room populated by over thirty surfboards, the earliest of which are nearly 100 years old. A part of our Special Collections and University Archives’ Malibu Historical Collection, the surfboard display represents part of the cultural legacy of that famous coastal community.
Although the “surfboard room” (as it is informally known) can only be accessed during special occasions, you can see all of these surfboards up-close and from multiple angles in our John Mazza Historic Surfboard Collection online. One of these boards—born of balsa wood in 1951, standing 9 feet, 4 inches tall—found fame when Hollywood discovered surf culture. It’s none other than Gidget’s surfboard.
Originally a novel about his daughter’s coming-of-age in the Malibu surf, Frederick Kohner’s Gidget would do as much as the Beach Boys to popularize surfing. Picked up by Columbia Pictures in 1959, Gidget became Hollywood’s first surf film and many sequels followed, including a short-lived television series on ABC starring a young Sally Field. This surfboard was originally shaped by celebrated Southern California board-maker Dale Velzy as one of his “rope logo” balsa boards. In 1964, the board found its way onto the set of the surf film Ride the Wild Surf, where it received four coats of paint, a logo reading “Surfboards by Phil,” and was ridden by a character named Eskimo. The next year, Sally Field used the board in the Gidget television series. Field’s autograph, along with that of Dale Velzy and Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman (aka, the “real” Gidget), is visible on the board’s deck. The original Velzy logo has been exposed at the very base of the tail.