A set of first-generation surfers have come together in the centre of Newquay, Cornwall, to launch a campaign in support of an iconic statue to mark the home of British and European surfing in time for the 60th anniversary of the sport in Newquay.
A 5m (16ft) £100,000 sculpture, showing a bronze surfer riding a wave, is being donated to the town by the Keogh Foundation, a charitable cause set up by Stuart and Cherrilyn (Cherry) Keogh. The couple first moved to Newquay around the same time as the surfing trend took off in the area, and they then went on to set up several surf-related businesses. The couple are now keen to give back to both the sport, and to Newquay, given that both have supported their success in life, and the statue donation is the first in a series of charitable opportunities that The Keogh Foundation has in development.
People on Cornwall’s north coast had been surfing prone on flat wooden bellyboards since 1919. However, it was in Newquay that there was the chance to see stand-up Malibu surfing in 1962 onwards. This had arrived with the arrival of both American and Australian lifeguards to the town, carrying these modern foam and fibreglass surfboards. As they took to the waves of Newquay Bay area, Towan, Great Western and Tolcarne people witnessed this new ocean sport for the first time. Many locals were interested to try it for themselves. This was the birth of a new sport in the UK which would give Newquay a new national identity, plus a new industrial and tourist identity in forthcoming years.
Realising there was a demand for Malibu boards, local entrepreneur Bill Bailey joined up with Bod Head to create the European Surfboard Company, whose most famous brand was Bilbo Surfboards. As a result of the sport blossoming at an incredible rate, Stuart Keogh opened a surfboard factory at Holywell Bay in 1968 and opened his own surf shop, Keo Surfboards, in Fore Street Newquay in 1970. His wife Cherry joined him in this business and they renamed it Newquay Surfing Centre. The couple continued there until 2010 when they retired from the surfing industry and closed the business down.
Some of the original group of Newquay-based surfers included Roger Mansfield, Alan McBride, Dennis Cross and the first female Trish Scarlett. The four gathered together recently to add their support to the campaign to have the iconic Newquay statue erected on the Killacourt, overlooking those first-surfed beaches, to recognise not only the multi-dimensional value that surfing brings, but also to mark this significant 60th anniversary.
Alan McBride says, “I’ve been involved for more than 50 years in surfing here in Newquay, and it’s about time they put a monument up to show this is Newquay – the surfing capital of Great Britain. Newquay wouldn’t be as it is now without surfing. People came, and still do come, right here to surf and to just watch it. All over the world – Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, Sydney – there are monuments to say you are at a very important place, as far as surfing is concerned. Now it’s time that significance is added to Newquay to ensure that everyone knows that this is the home of British surfing! This will attract others to come here.”
Roger Mansfield, now a prominent surf historian, says, “Believe me, it’s written down by press, TV, and academic study that Newquay has been credited as ‘The Surfing Capital of Britain’, a claim that goes back some 60 years. But, does that have any value to the town; and how would any visitor to Newquay ever know that if there isn’t an iconic mark to show this to all that live here, and all that visit?”
Stuart Keogh says, “Surfing plays a significant social, economic, and cultural role in the development of many coastal communities – and this is certainly the case with Newquay. Surfers who travel the globe see iconic structures, honouring the value of surfing in key locations such as Santa Cruz, Huntington Beach, Honolulu, Nazare and Florianópolis. Yet, despite the mammoth array of positive impacts that surfing has had on Newquay, and the significant numbers of tourists who come every year, we don’t have a monument to celebrate the sport that has carved out everything that this town is today. Surfers, locals and visitors alike flock to statues such as this to get their photos taken and then they post these up on social media, so the whole world can see what Newquay is all about.”
Stuart continues, “We have the support of a large number of the surfing community and also of Visit Cornwall who have confirmed that a statue such as this would create a brilliant impression, and could even bring up to £500,000 of additional publicity value and extra income per year for Newquay, especially as surfing is now an Olympic sport. And Newquay Town Council has expressed its interest in more public art for the town so this statue would be ticking two boxes at once. We are keen to gift it to the people of Newquay, in the year that is recognised as the 60th birthday of surfing in Newquay. We are also all of the clear opinion that it should be situated in the centre of the home of British surfing, in the spot that overlooks those breaks that the original Newquay surfers most utilised sixty years ago. Our Keogh Foundation is delighted to make the gift of all the costs for the sculpture which will be in the region of £100,000, and would be delighted if Newquay Town Council would contribute the one off cost of siting, likely to be around £10,000, and the yearly cost of maintenance which will be approximately £1,000 per year.”
The Keogh Foundation has set up both an online questionnaire, and physical copies of the questionnaire* are in a number of surf shops around Newquay including Karma, Santa Cruz, The Wave Project, Dreya Glass, Smile surf shop, The Board Room, The Stable, Box and Barber, Surfing Life, Saltrock, Vantastic, Superdry, By The Sea, Board Walk, Mustard Surf and CS Water Sports. Those who are interested in supporting the statue and its erection in 2022 can log onto https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PGXLFVJ to add their signature and details. All questionnaires are anonymous. From the permission to the statue being made and erected takes some eight months so it is hoped that Newquay Town Council will grant permission in early 2022 to allow the work to go ahead.
For further information, interviews or imagery please contact Sarah Harrington on Sarah@excess-energy.co.uk or via 07714 634945. Thank you.