Terry "Tubesteack" Tracy passes away at 77

August 24, 2012 | Surfing
Terry Tracy: the Tubesteack surfer from Malibu

The word "Gidget", one of the most famous surf movies of all time, comes from the mind of Terry Tracy. The man who inspired the beach bum character of "The Big Kahuna" is gone, but he will not be forgotten in the history of surfing.

The "Tubesteak" was born in Los Angeles, on the 13th March 1935, and started surfing when he was 15. Although a late beginner, Tracy would quickly become a popular surfer in Malibu, with his good-looking figure and cool vibe.

Five years later, Terry is fired from his daily boring job at the insurance company. No problem. The beach was his second home, the headquarter of his alternative lifestyle. Miki Dora inspired him, every single day.

Girls loved him and Terry named her favorite one, "Gidget" - a mash up of the words "girl" and "midget". In fact, she had a real name, Kathy Kohner, and traded a peanut butter sandwich for a surfboard loan.

Her father, Frederick Kohner, decided "Gidget" was a very good name for a blockbuster. He wrote the story and the movie was an instant success. But, why was Terry Tracy called "Tubesteak"?

"One summer I was really broke," Tracy revealed in the Encyclopedia of Surfing. "So I got a job across the street, right next to the Malibu Inn, at a place called Tube's Steak and Lobster House".

"And people would say to me, 'Hey, you still at Tube's Steak?' Then it just went to Tubesteak. But people have always been confused about what it meant. A lot of people think that Tubesteak meant... ah, some kind of cylindrical piece of meat".

The Ray-Ban Wayfarer surfer boy has always enjoyed the fun side of life and fully embraced the spirit of Malibu. Terry Tracy was kind and warm with everyone. He drove trucks, sold real estate and performed crazy stunts in the Californian beaches.

"Tubesteak" had to leave the line-up in 1980 because of a problem with one of his feet. He lived a happy married life of 54 years with Phyllis. He is survived by seven children, Pamela, Jennifer, Jocelyn, Patrick, Michael, Jonathan and Moe Tracy.