As surfers prepare to hit the South Strand this weekend for the Guy Daniels Memorial Surfoff, organizers are looking toward the future.
The annual surf contest that raises funds for the Guy Daniels Memorial Foundation is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Named after Guy Daniels, a local surfer who died during a jog in June of 1999, the contest supports the nonprofit’s efforts that include awarding multiple scholarships to area students. To date, well over $100,000 in scholarships has been awarded.
“In my mind, it’s really kind of amazing,” said Guy’s father Jim, who is on the foundation’s board. “Keeping people interested that long I think speaks volumes.”
Now, foundation leaders are looking at expanding and possibly making changes for future contests.
The idea of adding a volleyball component to the Surfoff has been floated. Also, organizers have discussed possibly holding the Surfoff at a different time of year, when there may be more parking availability and better waves. Community members interested in becoming board members are encouraged to apply.
“The fact we’re celebrating 20 years is amazing and we’re proud of that,” Daniels said, “but we’d like to keep it going. … It’s time to be looking to see where we go from here.”
Typically, around $4,000-$5,000 is awarded in scholarships annually to high school students in Horry and Georgetown counties, with students who apply able to tell their stories. This year, eight $500 scholarships were given out. The foundation has also awarded $1,000 scholarships to Coastal Carolina students studying marine science in years past.
The foundation’s work also includes environmental efforts. Its Respect the Beach campaign is a marketing initiative that urges visitors to keep Grand Strand shores clean.
The organization also has an endowment with Waccamaw Community Foundation that currently has about $30,000. The organization’s goal is to have at least one $1,000 scholarship be awarded per year indefinitely.
“That’s something we were really keen about getting set up so Guy is always remembered every year,” said the foundation’s director and childhood friend of Guy Daniels Mikey Pruitt.
The town of Surfside Beach supports the Surfoff in addition to various businesses that have assisted by donating funds, purchasing a spot on the back of event T-shirts and providing raffle prizes like surfboards, backpacks and gift certificates.
“The business community in the area comes together for us every year,” Pruitt said.
As for this year’s contest, there will be several divisions to take part in for multiple age groups, including longboard and shortboard heats and a bodyboard division. Each heat costs $15 to enter, except for the adaptive division for surfers with disabilities and the novice push and surf heat, which are both free to enter.
Instead of a pro-am division, an all crafts heat is being held, where contestants will attempt to ride waves on makeshift surfboards. Cash prizes will be offered in that heat, which is $50 to enter.
“That will be pretty entertaining,” Pruitt said.
In addition to new blood, the nonprofit is also mulling a change in direction.
Jacob Simmons, who has surfed in the contest and been on the foundation’s board for three years, has taken on more responsibilities and might serve in a larger role in the future as Pruitt has mulled passing the torch. This year, Simmons’ efforts have included acquiring contest trophies and T-shirts and he’s also helped with getting sponsors.
A Georgetown native and St. James High School graduate, he’s also supported the contest as the owner of Eternal Wave Surf Shop on Surfside Drive.
“One thing led to another,” he said. “I just felt like I could help in some capacity and then that role ended up getting bigger to now where I'm really hands on. I really enjoy it.”
Simmons pointed out the contest is one of the oldest yearly events in Surfside Beach.
It has also acted as a reunion of sorts for many of Guy Daniels’ friends. “This has kind of kept him alive,” Jim Daniels said. “There is a legacy. His name has been out there
for the last 20 years and I don’t think there could have been anything done or any kind of memorial that would have even come close to this.”
This year’s Surfoff is being held Saturday and Sunday at 13th Avenue South in Surfside Beach. Visit surfoff.com for more information. Surfing starts at 8:30 a.m.