A term such as local legend can fast lose impact when banded around in everyday conversation. But then, you meet someone like Pegleg Bennett, a one-legged surfer from Perranporth in the UK's Cornwall -- who officially changed his name from Rick to Pegleg in an attempt to stop people getting weird about his 'disability.' And suddenly, connotations of the word legend have meaning again.
“I don't really do PC,” he tells MSW. You see, Peg's a bit of a hero around those parts. His van, aka The Beast of Perran, has reached its own level of iconicism, forever stationed up in the small seaside town – though it's currently off the road for a facelift (#vanlife).
And more so because Peg's incredibly comfortable in waves from 2ft to 20ft and can be seen chasing storms when they slam into the Cornish coastline. He also competed in the World Adaptive Games (came fifth) and is now embarking on a charity ride from the top of the UK to its southernmost region – on a surrey bike. Go HERE to support the cause.
So we decided to check in on Peg, get some background to the name change, talk all things surfing and the latest cause he's undertaking all for a good cause.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up and what got you into surfing?
Well, I'm 48 going on 18 when it comes to surfing, outside of my kids, it's the most important thing in my life. The Badlands is where I ‘grew up’. I’ve always been a water baby and surfing is an extension of that.
When I was born I didn’t have the ankle in my left leg so they chopped off my foot, I would of had a club shoe and dragged it around otherwise, and for quality of life, my parents thought it was the best option. And, actually, I have just found out the actual date it was lopped off, so am going to have a leg chopping off party. Fancy dress is pirate, surgeon or nurse...
Then in 2016, you officially changed your name from Rik to Pegleg. What made you want to make the change?
You know, I've always answered to Pegleg or Peg locally, and in the local surf community, so it's normal to me.
The tipping point for the change was someone on Facebook reported my name as not being true, it was Rik Ebilgarr Bennett (Ebilgarr is the Cornish for Pegleg) and while I was training for the London Marathon I ran past a couple of the guys from Pirran Surf Shop, from Perranporth, and a mate shouted “morning Pegleg woz on?” After I'd run past them, a holiday maker had a go at him for calling me it and wouldn’t listen to his explanation, that that’s what I call myself and am known as.
I officially changed my name online for about £24. I don’t really do PC when it comes to my ‘disabilty’
So, after he told me, I officially changed my name online for about £24. I don’t really do PC when it comes to my ‘disabilty’ and if someone has a problem with it, it’s their problem not mine...rant over.
It’s not just small waves you surf though, you’re a fan of the chunkier stuff too; what are some of the nuances of surfing with one leg?
I’m happy in 2ft or 22ft (sometimes bigger) surf. When its big, it’s all about the adrenaline rush and the drop. I’m not an amazing surfer or anything I just love what I do. Problems I have are a weak knee and I have dislocated it a few times surfing and losing it if i’m wearing a shorty. [laughs]
What kind of waves do you prefer?
I’m more comfortable in the bigger stuff, ya know, 8ft and up, less crowded, more time to think about what’s going on and enjoy it. Like I said i’m not a ripper, I like big drops and long, fast walls.
Do you still have the Beast of Perran?! How’s it running?
The Beast is undergoing a massive face lift at the moment so not on the road.
The rebirth of an icon! Where have you travelled to surf?
Been all over over the years surfing ,Indo numerous times, the whole of the European coast, Moroccan coast, Arctic circle on a winter road trip, US, all over the UK.
And you’ve competed in the ISA World Adaptive Games, right? How was that?
It was amazing to be asked to represent in Team GB Adaptive. I had never competed before and it was a great experience. I came away with a ranking of 5th so was happy with that. I’m hoping to make the team again this year. We have the English Adaptive open at Fistral on June 30 so fingers crossed.
You’ve got a charity cycle coming up too, to raise cash for The Wave Project? How did this idea come about? Who’s involved and what made you want to support TWP?
Yeah the bike ride is gonna be nuts! Doing it with my mate John Hudson from Perranporth. We basically had an idea to do John o’Groats [in Scotland] to Lands End [tip of Cornwall] and after a couple of beers it grew into 'let's do it on a surrey bike.'
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We have done a few charity things over the years but this is definitely the hardest and most stupid. As John has said “A stupid idea for a good cause”
We are raising money for The Handstand Appeal, Marshall is a young Perranporth boy who lost all his limbs to Meningitis and is a real trooper with a great attitude to life. As he is growing, he needs new equipment so we want to help.
Also The Wave Project, being on the English Adaptive Surf Team, I have seen some of the work these guys do and the results. The work they do is amazing and needs all the support we can give. What the kids get out of this is immeasurable.
How can people sponsor you?
We have a just giving page (go HERE), Facebook page and Instagram page set up. We will also be doing fund raising events around and about.
Cover shot from Cornwall Live//Greg Martin