TERRY “TUBESTEAK” TRACY
“An avuncular regular foot surfer from Los Angeles, California; Malibu trendsetter in the mid-late 1950s; model for the “Kahuna” character in the book and movie versions of Gidget. Tracy was born in 1935 and raised in south-west Los Angeles. He began surfing at age 15. In the summer of 1956, he lived inn a palm-frond shack on the beach at Malibu where, as surf journalist Craig Stecyk recalled decades later, he “held court with humor and ruled with a velvet-shrouded iron hand.” Tracy later claimed he was nicknamed “Tubesteak” because he worked at a Malibu restaurant called Tube’s Steak and Lobster House.
Surf lore holds that Dora owned the waves at Malibu, while Tracy owned the beach. It was Tracy who looked at Kathy Kohner, a 16 year old Malibu newcomer, and nicknamed her “Gidget,” short for girl-midget. Teenage surfers flocked to Malibu in the late 50s. Gidget was published in 1957 and the movie followed two years later. Tracy overwhelmed by crowds and new LA county beach restrictions, dropped off the surf scene for 25 years.
Later, in a Life magazine feature Tracy said that he hadn’t surfed for years, but still lived by a surf-inspired code: “You can have a pressured Mercedes life, or you can get from A to B in an old Ford and die of natural causes.” He appeared in the 1958 surf movie Search for Surf, and was featured in the 1987 documentary The Legends of Malibu. In the late 80s and 90s he wrote surfing articles for H2O and the Surfers Journal under the pseudonym Bruce Savage. Tracy was married and has seven children. Tracy died at age 77 from complications of diabetes.”