The water is a second home for August Powalie.
The Myrtle Beach teen has developed a fondness for the ocean, his first time on a surfboard being when he was two years old. He’s honed his skills off the coast of nearby North Carolina and as far away as Puerto Rico.
“It’s just going out there and having fun riding the waves,” the 13-year-old said of what the pastime is all about.
He and his brother Olen are amongst the participants in this year’s Guy Daniels Memorial Surfoff. The two-day event began Saturday in Surfside Beach and benefits the Guy Daniels Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit named after a local surfer who passed away 20 years ago that awards scholarships to local students each year and focuses on environmental efforts.
Families were scattered throughout Surfside’s south end Saturday as surfers and spectators were greeted by sunny weather and cool breezes. Some young beach goers played with mounds of sands and in small pockets of water, unbothered by those ripping yards away.
Those who simply wanted to relax on the beach could buy a Surfoff T-shirt or jam to some reggae music. Beach games and activities were offered for younger attendees from sack racing to a hula hoop contest that saw its two winners scurrying to the sea while keeping the rings spinning around their waists.
Saturday’s surfing heats included shortboard, longboard and bodyboard divisions, many for different age groups.
Participants like August opted to compete in multiple heats, he himself choosing to take part by riding both his “slower and smoother” longboard and his preferred lighter shortboard.
Surfers were given a set timeframe where they had the chance to impress a panel of judges and move on to final heats to compete for bragging rights and trophies while parents like Erik Powalie could view their kids’ competing from the shore.
St. James Middle School student Ryan Largin hopped in the air and did a 180 after carving on a small wave.
“It’s just fun,” the 13-year-old of Surfside Beach said.
Other competitors were from farther away, like Kirsten Hedrick, also 13, of Thomasville, North Carolina, who used the skills she learned during lessons given by Eternal Wave Surf Shop.
Some divisions in the Surfoff — which isn’t solely for veterans — are free to partake in.
Those with Surfrider Foundation placed mats on the sand for beach wheelchairs ahead of Saturday’s adaptive division offering the chance for people with disabilities to catch some waves.
The novice, or push-in, heat entails adults propelling grommets on their boards, helping aspiring surfers pick up the hobby. Young participants including Jade Jazwinski glided on the tide on a board taller than she is.
“It’s an awesome event for the kids to be able to learn how to surf,” the girl’s mother Jenna said.
The Surfoff is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, with the foundation awarding more than $120,000 in scholarships to students. This year, eight area high schoolers each got a $500 scholarship.
In the past, the foundation has also awarded $1,000 scholarships to Coastal Carolina students studying marine science.
Kentucky native Amy Johnson was one of the recipients who attended CCU and was awarded the scholarship in 2014. The scholarship allowed the then-struggling Johnson who worked two jobs to attend a Maymester excursion to the Bahamas where she got to learn about different kinds of sharks.
“Now I study sharks because of that trip,” she said, adding each year she observes whale sharks off the coast of Mexico and works toward further protection of the animals.
She credits the scholarship for encouraging her to follow her passion.
Now a teacher, she plans to take her students on a trip next year to Tampa, Florida, to study manatees.
“I think it’s amazing how they’ve given back to students,” she said of the foundation.
The Surfoff continues Sunday at 13th Avenue South in Surfside Beach. One can still register for that day’s all craft division, which will let contestants compete for cash by using makeshift surfboards. The entry fee is $50.
Surfing is expected to begin around 9 a.m.