“I didn’t know anyone who sured, but I lovedwatching them,” says Donna. “I was 11 years old whenmy dad started surfng with a neighbor.”At 12, Donna’s amily bought a house across romRedondo High School, and she was now anxious to learnhow to sur.“My dad said ‘no’ because I was really little,” she says.“When I started high school, I was our-eet, six-inchestall and weighed 68 pounds. He said absolutely not.”Donna’s ather challenged her that i she could swimpier to pier, he would teach her to sur, likely assumingthat would be the end o her requests.“It took me three to six months,” says Donna. “I wentevery day and swam until I just about almost drowned.My dad came one aternoon and watched. I did it, andhe was trapped.”Donna recalls the frst time she stood up on a boardwith her dad’s encouragement, and clearly remembers aeeling o reedom.“My dad kept saying, ‘just stand up.’ Once I got up, Irealized I wasn’t going to all. One thing I’ll never orget:Being on top o the water and eeling all this powerbeneath you — it’s like you’re ying. And I kept thinking,‘I’m ree.’ That’s the eeling. Even though you’re scaredor it’s hard, you want to recapture that eeling. Andwhen you get out in the water, it doesn’t matter whothey are, what they look like, or what they do — you’reall sharing that experience. That’s what it’s about, really.”Her frst board was a 9-oot, 1-inch, Dewey Weber,obviously much bigger and heavier than hersel.“My dad made a rack and hooked it onto my strandcruiser. I was so small, I couldn’t wrap my arms aroundit, but once I got to the beach, I parked my bike on thestrand and dragged my board to the shore.”
Since starting a new school, Donna didn’t knowmany local kids yet, but she heard that some kids wentto Second Street in Hermosa. One morning, she rode herbike down to sur — the frst time by hersel. With hersmall stature, short hair, and sweatshirt, Donna put herboard in the water and started walking it out.“When I took o my sweatshirt, I had a one-piecebathing suit on,” says Donna. “And there were our orfve boys out there. As soon as I took o my sweatshirt,they must have realized I was a girl, and as I startedwalking out, they were riding a wave in. They came overto me and I said, ‘hi.’ They said, ‘Girls don’t sur here. Inact, girls don’t sur.’ They took my board, threw it aside,and started pushing me.”Eventually, Donna was able to get out o the water,drag her board back to her bike, and ride home, althoughshe suered a broken collarbone rom being pushed.Upon arriving home, her dad “had a ft” and wentto the beach, but the boys could not be ound. Donnanever saw them again. She returned to school wearinga sling, and the boys she had met at school asked herabout it. When she explained that she was beat up, theboys were incensed and invited her to sur with them.“From that time on until I was in my early twenties,I sured with them,” says Donna. “We became goodriends and nobody ever bothered me again.”
SURF TRIPS AND GIDGET
Donna’s ather started taking Donna and her newsurfng buddies all along the coast — Dana Point, ZumaBeach, Rincon, Carpinteria. On one Carpinteria trip, thegroup went to the drive-in at nearby Ventura to see themovie “Gidget”, although nobody knew what the moviewas about.“I’d gotten caught up in kelp that day and couldn’tget it o my scag,” she says. “The guys made un o me.They were always making un o me, calling me “midget”because I was so little.”Everyone sat on the hood o the station wagon andthe movie started, eaturing the beautiul Sandra Deeand the cool James Darin.“Sandra Dee was gorgeous, but she was little,”explains Donna. “In real lie, I elt gawky, unattractive,but I could relate to the movie. Sandra Dee wore a one-piece bathing suit with stripes around the middle, and Iwore a bathing suit with stripes around the middle. I waseuphoric ater that movie, because I thought — that’s mystory without the love interest! Ater that, they teasedme, calling me Gidget, and torturing me!”
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT SURFERS
Although she no longer surs, Donna is thrilledwatching her son-in-law sur and is amazed at howsurfng has changed over the years.“What they do now is so dierent,” she says. “Tosee that athleticism that’s developed and how it’s reallybecome a true, recognized sport is wonderul.”At 65 years old, Donna looks back ondly on thelie she had growing up. She has seen many changesin the South Bay, and eels blessed to have grown upin an era o innocence. She credits her parents withencouraging her to fnd her own path in lie and neversetting limitations. She also credits surfng with givingher the enviable ability to live completely in the presentand treasure each day.“There’s something about surers,” says Donna. “It’slike you share a secret. You don’t have to be big andpowerul, you just have to be tenacious and go or it.And when you’re standing on a board, there’s nothingto deter you rom what’s actually happening in thatmoment. You’re orced to be present. You’re hearingthat water, you eel that salt sticking to your skin, yousmell those ocean smells — and you’re standing therethinking, ‘I’m here in this moment.’”While the gang has moved on to dierent locales,class reunions occasionally reunite them. And when theydo get together, they share memories o surfng days,school dances, unrequited crushes, and sur trips withtheir very ownGidget.