At what cost do we choose to surf? At what cost do we choose to go out into the water instead of navigating our other responsibilities?
I have never had a tough time making up my mind. Over the years my indecision has gotten worse, but it is only about one thing - "Should I go out?" I live on Folly and obviously love to surf. I know the knee jerk reaction is that I should always go out, but what if you have a date planned later with friends or someone special? What if you know you need to relieve your parents from watching your kids? What if you know your wife made dinner and is waiting for you? What if you are so sunburnt that your nose has a giant scab on the tip? What if that job you wanted is going to call back between 3 and 5, and you know it's going off in the water, and with this tide it’s only going to be good for a little bit . . .
This thought started with my boyfriend not cleaning up before we had guests over. I was so angry that he had been home all day and the house was still a mess. All he could say back was that there was surf! What was he supposed to do, come in while it was barreling out there?? Was I not a surfer anymore?? Was I just nuts???
In that moment I was more scared of the judgment from my mother who had already come to terms with my living in sin with my boyfriend but who’s head would explode if the apartment was dirty too. Something about cleanliness is next to godliness and I had already let one down. This was a little couple's quarrel about something that didn't matter, but that thought has bothered me since. How could I get so irritated that someone chose surfing over washing the sink full of dishes before my parents came over?
Waves are inconsistent here on the East Coast, and so when there are waves, there is a real feeling of urgency to get there. Every surfer knows the, “It was better yesterday” or “You just missed it” conversation. Surfing has given me a real bad case of F.O.M.O. (Fear of Missing Out). What has falling in love with surfing cost or will cost in the long run? I asked around for answers.
Relationships and surfing. I don’t think I could ever be with someone who didn’t surf. You could say I have a type. Unless your significant other surfs, this can be a hard bridge to get across. I can list a couple divorces off the top of my head that were from surfing. “If you want a divorce become a shaper,” a local told me with a picture of his surfboard bearing his divorce details like a gravestone. There are no phones in the water. The waves won’t turn off for you to run home to your boo. Sometimes it can feel like your relationships have a hold button that the ocean does not.
One friend says, “I had a girlfriend once that always thought I was cheating because of the rash my wetsuit left on my neck.” It’s a funny thought to think of the ocean as the other woman. There is a lot of solo time between you and your board. One local said he ran to go surf, and his girlfriend was screaming at him, “That board isn’t the one who keeps you warm at night!” That relationship did not last. One buddy I used to work with was a notorious board hoarder. He said once that he has to store his boards in a particular order so that his wife didn’t notice a new one, or she would flip her lid. Granted, at one point I’m not sure he wasn’t hiding them in the walls there were so many.
Sometimes the rift between relationships and surfing is felt between couples who both surf. “I feel like it’s uneven sometimes when I have to stay on the beach to watch our son while he gets more wave time,” says one mama who surfs with her husband. One surfer girl said that it took her a long time to even surf with her boyfriend because he was so aggro in the water, and she was so embarrassed. Surfing can definitely drive you closer or rub a rash in a relationship. One lifelong surfer said, “It’s not what it cost but what it gave me. I knew it was over with the second wife when I was loaded up to go surf, and she said hang on I have to go put make-up on, which took her half an hour.” He has since married the real love of his life that travels with him in a van to live part of the year at another surf spot up north.
Work and surfing. My Uncle lives near Malibu, and when he wanted work done on his house, he would always ask if the workers surfed before he decided anything. I have never known a surfer to be sheepish of their habit, and if they said yes, he would hang up. He never hired surfers because if there were waves, they wouldn’t show up for work. A local legend owns a business doing repairs and painting. He said, “My clients know that if I’m not there, I’ll be there when the surf drops. It’s all a matter of communication. I remember 30 - 40 years ago the shops on Folly would all close for surf. Every shop but McKevlin’s. Mr. Mac was always there. Boys might not show up for work, but he was there.”
Another surfer said, “One of my biggest costs was going to the College of Charleston instead of Clemson. I wanted to stay in Charleston to surf instead of getting an engineering degree. I didn’t take that little time away from the coast that would have been much more beneficial.”
It’s no secret that Folly and Charleston in general have a bad case of Peter Pan syndrome. I have a real fear of having a job that I can’t get off for a surf trip. What good is working if you can’t do a little living too? Surfing gave way to an industry that currently supports this here website. D.J. McKevlin figured out how to make it work, and for that we all thank him.
Health and Surfing. We are all scared of skin cancer from being out in the sun for hours. My tummy has so many freckles that when I am pregnant, my belly will look like a robin’s egg. Sunburn, peeling, freckles, and wrinkles come with the territory, but what about the more unique injuries? One surfer recalls, “A friend of a friend was in Indonesia, and she wiped out in shore break hitting her face on the sand. The sand took off the front cartilage of her nose to the point that she had to have plastic surgery to reconstruct her nose. That’s rough. That’s losing what your face looks like.” Another friend almost cut off her calf while surfing from her longboard fin and has the scar to prove it. One local surfer head-butted a submerged tree while duck diving after a hurricane. He was not seriously hurt, but it just proves you really don’t always know what is in that water.
I know of friends that have been bitten by sharks, fallen into shallow water hitting their neck and almost been paralyzed, have scales starting to grow over their eyes from surfing in bright sunlight, have bone growing too close up their ears from surfing in cold water, been stung by Man-O-war jellyfish, and have had major cancerous chunks taken out. Surfing comes with risks just like any sport.
Unlike other sports, however, you can surf with dolphins or turtles, wipe out in forgiving water not concrete, get sun-kissed skin and natural highlights, stay limber and mobile easily into older age, literally walk on water and the all-natural “Surfers High”.
It is an individual journey for each surfer. For most everyone I know, there is one resounding answer, “It’s not so much what it has cost me as much as it’s what it has given me.” One surfer said, “Forced to live in an overpriced, overpopulated, up and coming, coastal real estate for the sake of surf followed by the yearly minor skin cancer removal and the cost of a yearly parking pass . . . but hey . . . less pain and trouble than motorcycles.” A local shaper said, “I mean, the most I can say that it has cost me is a little anxiety that I need to be surfing. Surfing has given me a wonderful sense of wanderlust and let me see and experience parts of the world I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I mean my girlfriend and now wife used to get mad about me missing things to go surf. Now she understands and supports it. One time I guess I did break my leg, but I just surfed in a cast. So yeah, the benefits have always outweighed the cost.”
I thought he said that just perfectly. In the end the rewards outweigh the cost again and again and again.
- Megan Coker
The 2019 D.J. McKevlin Gromfest surfing contest is scheduled for July 6 & 7 at the Washout, Folly Beach, SC.
Prepare for massive amounts of fun, food, prizes, and, hopefully - waves. Only surfers aged 18 and under will be conquering SC's most famous surfing destination for this one. There are 10 divisions in total (2 longboard & 3 shortboard for both Dudes and Wahines) plus a FREE Push 'n' Surf division for the youngest riders needing a bit of assistance. Top 3 finishers in each division get a secret Award, top 6 in each division get a bag o' prizes, everyone gets a chance to win a brand new ...LOST surfboard, and everyone gets a contest T-shirt.
Click on the photo above to download the Entry Blank. Print and bring it to McKevlin's Surf Shop before July 3. And . . . good luck, Groms!!!
You're invited! On Saturday, March 9 from 3 PM to 8 PM we're throwing the event of the year in our parking lot jam-packed with good fun, tunes, food, and a little help for Mother Nature. There'll be a Surf Swap where you can bring your surf hardgoods and trade out with your mates. Chat it up with local shaper/celebrities Richard Prause (Grasshopper Surfboards), Paul Martin (Martin Surfboards), and Josh Hoke (Hoke Surfboards). The gang from Nectar Sunglasses will be there along with Live Music from Southern Current. Revelry craft brews will flow thanks to Rita's Seaside Grill, and Coffin Island Catering will be serving seafood gumbo. Jason's Jump Castles will provide bouncing fun for the groms. Register to win a new, Bing Surfboard @ $1 per ticket. Proceeds from the Raffle and Beverage sales go to Charleston Waterkeeper. Be there, or you'll just have to hear what you missed!
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.