With a trip to Oahu on the horizon, I decided to get a little more nerdy and check out the history of surfing. Everyone thinks of Hawaii as the birthplace of surfing, don’t they? I guess it depends on what you’re idealism of surfing actually is, and what theories you’ve heard or deem as viable.
On the hunt for a well-researched source, I ironically came across The History of Surfing by Matt Warshaw, a former editor of Surfer Magazine and author of several surf books. This particular hunk of a book was a 4-year project, 500 pages, and seemed like a promising resource covering surf history from the pre-1900’s to 2009.
Stoked about the arrival of this all-knowing book, I ripped the package open expecting to immediately read up on surfing in ancient Hawaii. I was confused, surprised, and a little excited when Warshaw began with an alternate theory, suggesting that the establishment of surfing had been proven to exist in Peru long before the widely-known recorded history in Hawaii.
A well-known Peruvian surfer, Felipe Pomar, has been advocating this theory for years. Around 3000 B.C. an invention called the caballito or “little horse” was created. Due to the coastline and geography in Peru, the caballito was made out of bundled reeds and used as a vehicle for trade and fishing, which were both essential daily activities. To keep whatever trade and food that was gathered for the community safe during daily trips to sea, ancient Peruvians had to be skilled and know how to interpret the waves and tides.
Their sites have revealed archeological findings dating back to 2600 B.C. that show ancient Peru’s affinity and respect for the ocean. Many artifacts show artwork of incoming swell on the horizon and images that suggest wave riding. Keep in mind, the longest left-hand break in the world, Chicama, is also in the lands where these ancient cultures resided.
Using the caballito to maneuver on waves is said to resemble the technique of stand-up paddle boarding more so than on a surfboard, however, the act of surfing for the ancient Peruvians was still treated as an art and cultural activity. Concrete artifacts and relics dating back to 1000 B.C. officially show the tradition and seriousness of wave riding in ancient Peru.
While ancient Peruvians were continuing to explore the seriousness of surf science with their caballitos, in 2000 B.C. a migration of expert sailors from South East Asia set out to discover Polynesia. A rudimentary form of surfing may have begun around that time. With Eastern Polynesia (the Marquesas, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, New Zealand) and Hawaii at the very end of the line, Polynesian travelers didn’t settle on the Hawaiian island until 300 A.D. with surfing being dated as a serious cultural staple around 1200 A.D.
With an island surrounded by never-ending breaks, surf, and warm weather, there is no doubt that it was extremely easy and natural for the Hawaiians to declare surfing as a way of life. One in which surfing was integrated into almost every aspect of daily life. The Peruvian’s climate is substantially more cold than that of Hawaii’s and consists of only one western coastline with world class breaks. Surfing mainly breached the surface in that part of the world as a “byproduct of work and probably limited to fisherman, surfing in Hawaii was both recreational and universal”.
A surf journalist wrote, “Good luck selling the idea that anchovy-trolling Peruvians were the first wave-riders. Surfers choose their collective past and when it comes down to Hawaii or Peru, the tropics or the desert, the sport of the kings or the sport of the fishermen - well, that’s hardly a choice at all.”
Yes, Hawaiian surf history and culture is undoubtedly more vibrant and widely known, but shouldn’t the ancient Peruvian early surf skills and wave riding tactics be credited for something?
- Mindy Hawes
It's now become the largest surf contest for 18 and under participants in the state, but the D.J. McKevlin Gromfest started long ago on little more than a whim and a prayer.
Nancy Hussey former ESA director for the Southern South Carolina district had come up with a new plan for their yearly slate of competitions. Why not have sponsors for each event? They could help with some of the volunteer positions and bring their own supporters and style along for the ride. When she asked Tim McKevlin of McKevlin's Surf Shop which contest he'd like to help with, his answer came quickly - we want the KID'S contest!!! "I don't know if we can get a lot of kids out for the contest, but we'll try." Nancy immediately added, "Let's name it after your dad!"
The deal was sealed, and the D.J. McKevlin Gromfest was born. Few now realize that the contest's namesake may be one of the reasons why surfing has flourished for so long in our area.
Aside from opening the longest established surf shop in South Carolina, Dennis McKevlin was Folly Council's "Agitator in Chief" during the late 60's and throughout the 70's. Then, when surfing was frowned upon by the Folly Beach politicals, and surfers were unjustly forced away from the best surfing areas, Mr. Mac began attending Folly Beach Council meetings. There he spoke up for the surfers and reported back to them and their parents and the media about the unwarranted accusations and the bigotry that he saw and heard. Frustrated with the system, he eventually decided to run for office as a Folly Council member. He was overwhelmingly elected and remained on Council for 10 years - until his retirement.
While on Council he ran into brick wall after brick wall. More often than not, he cast the lone dissenting vote against a Council determined to cast surfers off the island. Finally, with the help of countless surfers, parents, and others, the issue was taken to the S.C. Supreme Court in 1976 where Folly Beach officials settled with the surfers and allowed them to surf.
So, at its roots, the Gromfest is about kids and their freedom to surf. For one weekend of the year, the best surf spot in South Carolina, the Washout, is dedicated to only the youngest surfers. They're given the "keys to the peak" and allowed to have "their day" - all to themselves.
Since its inception, the D.J. McKevlin Gromfest has grown in many ways. The earliest events were small but still fun. Gradually, the contest brought more young people into the local ESA district to the point where we can now boast some of the largest younger divisions in the Mid-Atlantic region. The benefits for the participants have also increased. Now, in addition to McKevlin's Surf Shop, this year's event includes 12 other sponsors who have donated prizes for all the finalists. Plus, the top 3 in all 10 divisions is awarded a trophy. Every competitor also gets a Competitor's T-Shirt and an equal chance at winning a brand new McKevlin's Surfboard, regardless of how they place in the contest.
In the end, however, it's the final 15 minutes of every Gromfest that usually contain the event's real highlight. This is when the Push 'n' Surf division is held. The absolute youngest surfers, some just scratching at 4 years old and some standing on a board for the first time, are assisted by a parent, sibling, or friend. The assistant guides them out to the break and carefully helps by "pushing" the board and mini-surfer into a wave. The grom's family as well as the entire beach of spectators erupt into a roar of cheers and applause encouraging and rewarding the new star! This division is absolutely free, and all the participants are awarded prizes (in addition to cheers).
The 2018 D.J. Gromfest is scheduled for July 7 & 8.
Another Folly Beach Wahine Classic is in our rear view mirror. This year's event, like its predecessors, was filled with smiles, fun, sun, and . . . small waves.
The all-women event was held at the Washout, Folly Beach on June 2 & 3. The McKevlin's Crew was out in full force and scored several impressive victories:
Hampen Thomas captured 3rd in Girls Longboard, Sylvia Windham took 2nd in Girls Shortboard, and Kristin Tanner posted a 6th in Womens Longboard, a 4th in Womens Shortboard, and was awarded the Hottest Longboard Ride with an 8.1 out of 10 score!
Meanwhile, Perng Hutson, the shop's assistant manager, and Kate Barattini, our ambassador of stoke management, went home with the most hardware! Perng received 4th in Ladies Shortboard, 2nd in Ladies Longboard, and a 3rd in Pro Longboard, giving her a $300 check. Kate Barattini won the Pro Longboard division (and a $1,000 check) and took home 3rd place in Womens Shortboard and 1st in Womens Longboard.
This contest always draws competitors from all over - not just little South Carolina. Thanks to Co-Directors, Liz Chirles and Patti Dawson as well as all the hard-working judges, tabulators, volunteers, contestants, and sponsors. We're already looking ahead to the 2019 Classic!
The Folly Beach Wahine Classic will be held this weekend (June 2 & 3) at the Washout on, where else?, Folly Beach, of course. This is truly a contest where the fun is contagious. If you haven't signed up yet, you may be out of luck! The entry deadline has passed, but if there happens to be room in one of your division's heats, you might get lucky and sneak in.
Whether you're competing or not, you don't want to miss this event. Drop by and visit us under the McKevlin's tent. Many of our surf team members (Sylvia Windham, Kristin Tanner, Kate Barattini, Hampden Thomas) will be attending as well as a few of our shop staff (Perng Hutson, Megan Coker, Heather Wall). To read more about these ladies, go: HERE.
And, on your way to the Washout, be sure to drop by the shop to enter the 2018 D.J. McKevlin Gromfest. That contest's for 18 and under only and is set for July 7 & 8.
The Southern South Carolina district of the ESA held their second contest of the year on May 19, 2018 at the Washout on Folly Beach. This contest was held in better-than-usual contest waves and less than perfect weather conditions! Great for competitors/not so nice for everyone else. McKevlin's Surf Team posted 4 competitors. Sylvia Windham took home the 1st place trophy in Girls U-16 shortboard and in Jr. Women U-18 shortboard. She also scored a 2nd place in Jr. Women longboard. Hampden Thomas managed a 4th in Jr. Women U-18 and a 3rd in Jr. Women Longboard. Also, Kristin Tanner won the Women's division.
Representing the male side of the team, Griffin Jackson took 2nd place in Boys shortboard U-16, a 4th in Jr. Men U-18, and a 4th in Jr. Men Longboard.
The next contest scheduled is the Folly Beach Wahine Classic on June 2 and 3.
Thanks to the readers of the Charleston City Paper. We've been named again your favorite Surf Shop. That's 21 years in a row - every year they've run this poll. We are not worthy! But, heck, we'll try to be. Thank you a million times.
The first ESA contest of the new season was held at the Washout on April 14 in small conditions. Team McKevlin's managed several impressive results: Sylvia Windham took 1st place in Girls U-16 Shortboard, 3rd in Jr. Women U-18 Shortboard, and 1st in Jr. Women U-18 Longboard. Kristin Tanner scored a 3rd in Women's Shortboard. The guys were successful as well. Griffin Jackson garnered a 2nd in Boys U-16 Shortboard, a 4th in Jr. Men U-18 Shortboard, and a 2nd in Jr. Men U-18 Longboard. Big brother, Mchenry Jackson, dominated with two 1st place wins in both Jr. Men U-18 Shortboard and Jr. Men U-18 Longboard. To find out more about McKevlin's Surf Team, you can go right HERE.
The collaborative surfboard company of geniuses like Ryan Lovelace, Gerry Lopez, and Rich Pavel has finally landed in South Carolina - at McKevlin's Surf Shop. Phil Browne from Glide Surf Co., Trimcraft's east coast distributor, just dropped off the first of what will be many batches of beautiful and functional works of art. These boards are all 100% hand-shaped and come from, literally, the Heavens, Trimcraft's shaping and glassing facility in Asbury Park, NJ.