In the summer of 1962, primarily as the result of the "Gidget" phenomenon, the California beach surf culture stormed the East Coast. This was the dawn of East Coast Surfing, particularly in the Charleston, S.C. area.
The first surfboard at the local beaches was a 9'6" Malibu "popout" shared by five teenagers. Board wax was purchased in rock-hard paraffin blocks from the local grocery store. There were no surf shops or waves crowded with other surfers. These kids were stoked and it was contagious! The surfing boom had exploded.
Soon after came a demand for more sophisticated equipment. A custom shaped board from California, including shipping, cost $110.00. A summer job could earn a youngster enough money to buy a Hobie, Weber, or Noll brand longboard. These were fun boards and the pride of anyone who owned one.
In the summer of 1963, a group of young "pier barnacles" conceived the notion of forming the Carolina Coast Surf Club. A logo was created (the same one we use today), some simple bylaws were adopted and officers were elected. Meetings were first held at Tom Proctor’s house on Sullivan’s Island. Surf Club trips north to Virginia Beach and south to Cocoa Beach for the first annual East Coast Surfing Championships gave us great memories we will always cherish. The image of David Nuuhiwa’s gravity-defying nose rides in two foot surf slop is indelible in our minds. We recently found some old film of those early days which supports our recollections.
Club membership peaked at about 20 surfers, male and female, ranging from age 13 to 19. However, soon college, the draft, Vietnam, marriage, jobs and careers moved people’s focus from the Club. Around the same time, the shortboard revolution of the late 1960's and early 1970's almost completely replaced classic longboard riding. The Surf Club became dormant.
However, the late 1980's saw a resurgence of longboarding with the introduction of newer, lighter, and better materials. Now what was old is new again. Nose riding, deep turns, and classic style longboard riding is popular again, just as it was over 40 years ago. Some oldtimers found the stoke they had lost. Some never quit. We are part of a movement that has returned to its roots to re-discover surfing the way it was in the beginning.
In 2001, a few of the original Club members decided to sponsor a reunion. What started as casual conversation at the reunion about reviving the old Club ended with the creation of Carolina Coast Surf Club, Inc., a South Carolina nonprofit corporation. Our membership is open to anyone with an interest in surfing and preserving the beaches and oceans. Longboarders, shortboarders, young people, old people, spectators, novices and old pros are welcome. We all share several things in common-the love of surfing, the love of the ocean, and a desire to preserve these vital natural resources for the generations which will follow us.
We are in the early stages of reorganization, but we plan to sponsor surfing contests, surfing trips to exotic locations such as Costa Rica and Mexico, and beach sweeps. We hope to serve as an advocate for surfers’ rights. Our main goals are simple: to surf more, work less, have fun and pass this great activity on to our children and their children. So let’s go. Surf’s up!
The Post and Courier - 9/4/2005 - used with permission
BY DAVID QUICK
Of The Post and Courier Staff
Frank Davis laughs a lot when he talks about surfing in the Charleston area in the mid-1960s.
“I was 16 or 17 years old, coming from Santa Cruz, California, and was just full of it,” says Davis, now 58 and living on James Island. “I walked out on Folly Beach with a nine-foot Greg Noll longboard and heads
Davis lived and breathed surfing. He was among the first to ride the waves on Folly Beach, played in a Beach Boys-style band called The Pendeltons, and co-founded the West Coast East Surf Club, consisting of mostly Air Force base kids who enjoyed the dawn of surfing in the Lowcountry.
Life was great. They were cool, cute girls were everywhere, and the realities of the Vietnam War and adulthood seemed an eternity away.
“The combination of this surf club and the band drove surfing to a frenzy here. We were always promoting surfing. We did everything to boost it,” he said.
In those days, the boards were, at first, fairly scarce, cost about $100 and were typically longer than eight feet. Instead of specialized, commercially made surf-board wax available today, surfers melted blocks of paraffin wax on the deck of boards for foot traction. And boards didn’t have ankle leashes. If someone wiped out, he or she had to swim to get the board.
On the Isle of Palms, a group of East Cooper teens were catching their first rides, too. They soon formed the Carolina Coast Surf Club and started traveling the Southeast’s shore, from Cocoa Beach, Fla., to Virginia Beach, Va., to compete in surf contests.
Among them were Lucy Price Jacobs, now 56 and living near Charlotte, and her sisters. The sisters, and few other girls, were welcomed as equals among the 15 boys in the club.
“We hung out at the long-gone pavilion (on the Isle of Palms),” recalls Jacobs. “I remember my first ride. It was so exhilarating. I was immediately hooked.”
Surfing, depending on who you talk to, arrived at Charleston beaches in 1963 or 1964. Like most national trends, it took a while to get here.
Polynesians in Hawaii were probably surfing before Christopher Columbus stepped foot in the Americas. Surfing in Hawaii barely survived efforts by Christian missionaries to stamp it out and, in the first half of the 20th century, spread slowly to Australia and California. In the 1950s, the mo-mentum was building, and it be-came ripe for international popularity, especially with release of the 1959 movie “Gidget.”
Teens started showing up on local shores with a few boards years later. They were pioneers of Lowcountry surfing. Surf boards and products weren’t available, nor were advanced weather forecasting systems that many rely on to-day — such as Web sites monitor-ing buoys in the Atlantic that can give an indication of wave conditions days in advance.
Also, some of their parents didn’t know what to make of surfing, which was part of the growing counter-culture of the 1960s.
“My dad and mom couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to play high school basketball or football, “says Andy Benke, now 49 and the Sullivan’s Island town administrator.
“There was no way to describe the feeling of surfing to them. It was better than hanging out at the high school football game, better than drinking parties, better than anything. My parents had a hard time understanding that.”
Benke fondly recalled starting surfing in 1965 and buying his first board, a 10-foot Royal Hawaiian, from the Edwards Five and Dime store on King Street.
“I couldn’t even carry it to the beach by myself,” he said.
Unlike the much younger Benke, the glory days of that first generation of surfers ended near the end of the decade. Some headed off to fight in the Vietnam War, some went to college and some started families. Some kept surfing and some quit. Some scattered across the country.
At the same time, surfing itself changed. The mass introduction of the shortboard — boards measuring 7 feet or less — ushered in a new style of surfing and an era of individualism. The combination essentially caused surf clubs to die.
Today, many of the first kids who surfed locally are facing 60. But they haven’t lost their memories of surfing in the good old days. And in recent years, they have reconnected on Labor Day weekends for surfing and stories.
In 1999, former Carolina Coast members and surfing buddies Hal Coste and Tom Proctor started toying with the idea of reorganizing the club. But it wasn’t until Coste appeared on a segment of the home improvement cable TV network HGTV that it started rolling.
As a result, Jacobs and Coste talked and he told her the idea. Coste, Proctor, Jacobs and others started the club back up, held re-unions in 2001 and 2003, have plans set for a club surfing trip to Costa Rica next February, and plan to hold reunions and surf contests annually.
The Carolina Coast club is open to everyone, young and young at heart. Part of its reason for existing, Proctor says, is to pass the tradition on to the next generations of surfers.
This weekend marks another reunion. Members — some of whom are coming from Hawaii, California, Texas and Florida — gathered on the Isle of Palms beach Saturday, held a dinner Saturday night and have plans for another day of surfing today and Monday.
For one member, local attorney Nick Sottile, the reunions have meant a rebirth in the passion of his youth. “I went 30 years without surfing because of career, working summertimes, raising money for college and what not,” says Sottile, now 52. “I showed up at the re-union in 2001, the surf gods intervened (provided good waves), and everybody hit the water. ... I’ve had the fever ever since.
”Now, he’s not only surfing regularly but has traveled to Costa Rica with his sons to surf.
Members of the reorganized Carolina Coast Surf Club came from across the country to meet this weekend. They include(counter-clockwise from bottom) Deagan Gilley, her grandfather Tom Proctor, Sally Price, Nancy Price, Lucy Price Jacobs,Charlotte Coste and her father, Hal Coste. The club was started in the early ’60s and is open to all ages.
Post and Courier photo by Wade Spees, used with permission