LOS ANGELES – In 1956, Terry “Tubesteak” Tracy, freshly fired from his job at a downtown Los Angeles insurance company, bid goodbye to the 9-to-5 life and headed for the Malibu shore, where he built himself a shack out of wood scraps and palm fronds and sailed into surfing history.

He was, according to surfing historian Matt Warshaw, a decent surfer, but his ticket to glory wasn’t what he did on a board: It was the aesthetic he embraced. Tracy, better known by the nickname “Tubesteak,” was the personification of the rebellious surf subculture that emerged in California in the late 1950s. He was an anti-authoritarian sage in Wayfarer shades and Madras shorts who made bumming on the beach the essence of cool and an irresistible draw for a girl he called Gidget.

An impresario of Malibu beach when it became the most famous surf break in the world, Tracy died Wednesday at his home in San Clemente, Calif., of complications of diabetes, said his wife, Phyllis. He was 77.

Although he hadn’t ridden the waves in decades, he was revered as an elder statesman of the surfing world.