Cardiff Kook


Sixteen-foot-tall bronze and granite sculpture erected in 2007 in Cardiff-by-the-sea, California, on adjacent to Pacific Coast Highway, depicting a young male surfer awkwardly perched mid-manuever on a shortboard; the sculpture's official name is "Magic Carpet Ride," but it is affectionately known as the Cardiff Kook to locals and the press.

Commissioned by the Cardiff Botanical Society for a hefty $120,000, the sculpture was designed and built by Encinitas artist and Mount San Jacinto College art instructor Matthew Antichevich. From the moment of its unveiling the statute was mocked by the San Diego surf community for its balletic, foppish presentation of wave-riding. "I can't even tell you what that statue stands for," pro surfer and Cardiff local Rob Machado told the Wall Street Journal not long after the statue debuted. Surf photographer and Cardiff regular Rob Gilley described it as the sculpted football equivalent of “a receiver stretching out for a pass, but then tripping and falling as the ball flies over his head.”

The Cardiff Kook soon gained national fame as a target of highly talented pranksters; over the years the statue has been dressed as an Abu Ghraib prisoner, a circus clown, a pizza chef, and Peter Pan; he's been eaten by a papier-mâché shark, and attacked by a 20-foot pterodactyl. Cardiff Kook transformations always take place under cover of night.

The Wall Street Journal, CBS News, and the British Daily Mail are among the mainstream media outlets who have produced features on the Kook. The sculpture has its own website, and has inspired a Cardiff Kook 10k Run, as well as a calendar series. City officials who initially discouraged any tampering with the stature quietly, if unofficially, reversed course, as the pranks became a minor tourist attraction. As of 2015, no structural damage has befallen the Cardiff Kook.

On a sadder note, Antichevich, the sculpture, a surfer himself, said he was "devastated" by the negative reaction to his work, and that he was "totally destroyed as an artist trying to do public art."