I was gonna write a piece on how I spent my summer, but decided instead to focus on one small part of this summer’s grand adventure. Briefly, a tale of caution and one of customer service gone wonderfully right in a pace called “The Edge of America.”
Folly Beach Rocks. Literally.
My family and I shared an amazing beach house with some family friends and some new acquaintances (ever seen a Scottish expat boogie-board? I have) in the lovely little town of Folly Beach, South Carolina. Folly Beach is about twenty minutes from Charleston, and I’d been looking forward to the trip particularly because of Folly’s reputation as one of the very few good surf spots in South Carolina. What we discovered about the beach itself was that the hurricanes, tropical storms, and the gods-know-what-else have eroded much of the sand. To correct this situation, the Army Corps of Engineers and others have re-seeded or replenished the beaches by dredging up ocean sand and putting it back where it belongs: beneath the feet of hard-working Americans on their respective vacations. (SCREW YOU, NATURAL OCCURRENCES OF NATURE!) But what my family, our friends, and I discovered is that in all the dredging, the engineers unwittingly deposited huge chunks of calcified sand and coral in and amongst the tons of loose beach sand.
Now there are wicked clusters of dark grey rocks, essentially a conglomerate of really hard sand and crustacean shells and such, all compressed by the weight of the ocean itself and probably Godzilla. (Wait, it’s the East Coast. Probably Clover. Yeah. Clover did that.)
Several of us got nasty scrapes, stubbed toes, and worse. The kids ended up wearing water shoes to play in the surf. We happily discovered that the further south we got from the main pier (and away from the city lifeguards, as it turns out) the nicer it got. The stones were much more sparse, and it felt like a proper oceanside retreat. I was able to surf without worrying about serious dings and scrapes to my rented longboard. Speaking of which…
Ocean Surf Shop Rules The Most.
I wanted to rent a longboard (it had been ten-plus years since I’d surfed) and so prior to the trip itself, I checked out the website for the “big surf shop on the corner” there in Folly Beach. Seemed like they had reasonable rates, tons of boards to rent, etc. Upon arrival, I showed up and found the shop was run by a bunch of kids. One of the teenagers (I assume he was a teenager, but shit, man. I’m in my mid-40’s so EVERYONE is a teenager) said “yeah, man! We got plenty of boards! Come with me!” I followed to the back, where the lad threw his arms up in theatrical frustration at the empty spaces where rental boards normally took up residence. “Oh, no! Bummer! I thought we’d have a few left! Don’t worry, though. People bring ’em back all the time.” A different kid (I think he may have appeared in “Teen Beach Movie’) up front took my cell phone and promised to call as soon as one became available.
I never heard from them, the entire week I was in Folly Beach.
But rather than place my surfing fate in the hands of others, I took the walk down a few blocks to Ocean Surf Shop. It was upstairs of some property management office, but as soon as I made the climb, I knew I’d come to the right place. A dude that looked my age was consulting with a young guy in glasses behind the counter. The subject was “how to determine the surf forecast when there are two different swell directions.” A proper surf shop. A shop where the older guys passed their knowledge to the groms who hung around during flat spells. A shop where the older guy (okay, maybe he was in his late-20’s, but still an improvement) looked up and smiled through his beard and asked if he could help me with anything. A shop that said “sorry, we don’t have anything over 8 feet available, but there’s one or two coming in later today or tomorrow, if you want to check back.” And that’s exactly what I did. I called ’em up the next morning, and the bespectacled kid (I recognized his voice) told me that a 9-foot Walden had just shown up. I ran down, picked it up, and had a great week of fun waves.
After returning the board, I decided to buy a trucker hat with the shop’s logo. There was another family being rung-up at the counter, so one of the shop’s owners offered to check me out back in the office. His assistant (wife, perhaps?) ran my card in a room full of wetsuits, boogie boards, and used surfboards awaiting approval for sale. I left thinking “This is how it should be. This is how you run a shop.” I was treated like a customer from the outset, better yet: I was treated like a surfer, or at least a guy who wanted to surf (there’s a subtle difference.) I was not blown off or treated like the 40-something kook that I am. It was how businesses should work, and if you ever need anything; sunblock, t-shirts, wax, leashes, hats, surfboard or board rentals, go to these guys first. They earned my repeat business, and the next time I’m in FB they’ll be my very first stop.
Oh, a footnote to this story: as I left with my new hat and a few free stickers, I noticed the family that had been checking out as I’d been shopping, now about a half-block ahead of me on the busy main strip. The kids and mom walked excitedly beside their dad, a guy about my age. Tall, dark-haired, handsome guy. He was smiling and so were the kids. Under dad’s arm was a nine-foot Walden surfboard, the same one I’d just returned. I don’t know if you wanna call it the “circle of life” or whatever, but it made me smile. Another satisfied customer. Another family with a huge bag of memories.
As long as they watch out for the rocks.