Gidget or Why Writing is Like Surfing


When I was a young girl, I went bonkers over Gidget. I was light years from a surfer girl, blond haired pixie-ish Sandra Dee. I was a Jewish brunette living in Detroit. The only California sun and surf I experienced back then, was on a movie screen. I loved Gidget’s independence. Her refusal to back down in the face of all those surfer guys (this is pre-surfer ‘dudes’) bullying and tormenting her for the usual reason (threatened by her). EVEN Moondoggie was a shithead, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first time I saw Gidget (I saw it repeatedly), I returned home, locked myself in my room, hopped atop my single bed and pretended to surf. At dinner, I asked my parents if I could take surfing lesson. I learned a critical, though painful, piece of geography. My father broke the news that surfing required an ocean. The suburbs of Detroit wasn’t driving distance to any coastline.

As a resident of California for the last thirty years, I’ve spent many gorgeous days on the magnificent California Coast. Yet, I have no fucking idea why people surf!! NOTHING looks more boring. Bobbing around in the water, hoping you’ll catch a wave. Even on a good day, a surfer spends no more than thirty minutes actually surfing! Hard-core surfers don’t even get out of the water to fucking eat! They wait and wait and wait. It’s very Zen, I suppose. But not for me.

Then it dawned on me. Writing was like surfing.

As a writer (or surfer) you bob around in your head waiting and waiting for inspiration to wash over you. When you think you can’t wait another second, a wave swells up. You go for it, taking the ride, not knowing where you will end up or whether you will wipe out. You’re totally lost in the moment. You forget how awful it was to bob around like a piece of seaweed hour after hour. You realize you were born to surf! Nothing makes you happier.

You ride the wave until it flattens near shore. Then you lug your board back out into the waves and wait and wait and WAIT until another perfect wave heaves its way toward you.

And that is like writing.There are moments when you’re inspired, other moments where, at the threat of death, you can’t muster an idea. Inspiration isn’t a permanent state. It comes and it goes. Some ideas grab harder and maintain a deep hold on you. But if you don’t get into the water, you can’t find the wave that’s going to sweep you into your story and penetrate your unconscious.

Take the plunge. Next time you sit down in front of a computer screen, think of yourself as a surfer, embracing the moment to ride your wave of creativity.

Benita Garvin is the creator of the Storytelling Lab. USC Professor John Wells School of Television and Film since 2005. Award- winning film and television writer with credits in the US and Europe. Produced playwright and published author. Essays appear in three different anthologies "Exit Laughing," "He Said What" and "Faith." Artwork featured in several gallery shows. In addition to her own website (, her work appears on Saatchi Art as well as Laguna Beach Art Gallery.