At The Beach 

Sandcastles & Kiteboarding

click to enlarge BEN WILLIAMS

Enter Sandmen
Get serious about building castles in the sand

As Charleston residents, we will never feel the seasonal joy of building a snowman (or any other snow creature for that matter). We'll just have to eat our carrots, burn our coal, and save our magic silk hats for another time.

But we can compensate with sand. And going to the beach on a sunny day to make a sand castle is way better than freezing our butts off in mid-January.

Take that Yankees.

Jack Tracey, whose graffiti-inspired sculpture won second place in the architectural category at this year's Piccolo Spoleto sand-sculpting competition on Isle of Palms, says that sand-castle building hinges on a person's ability to stack, wet, pack, and carve the sand. Tracey has been sculpting for over 20 years and has even made sand logos for McDonald's and General Electric.

Tracey usually goes into building without a plan, preferring to make abstracts.

"I let the whole sand talk to me, just seeing where the sand gives and holds," he said.

Jiggling sand is the best way to get it to congeal. Instead of stacking sand, Tracey likes to dig down to below the water line to get hard-packed sand; the only problem is the occasional shell, stick, or other piece of unpredictable debris that you can sift out when you pack the sand yourself.

If you want to build tall sand castles, Mitch Embler, a member of this year's overall winning team at the competition, says that you should use a form, like plastic sheeting, to hold in the sand. He's been told that his sculptures, like the eight-foot-tall "Rob's Castle," look as if they defy gravity.

"When you compact the sand enough, it stands on its own," he says.

Sand sculpting resource website,, says that sand sculptures are not "built" but made "by removing all the parts of the pile that are not part of the creation." The site offers tips for castle construction.

click to enlarge sandcastle.jpg

Sand Castle Know-How

1. Wet the sand: It needs to be wet in order to hold its shape; sand will find its own natural saturation point, so it can never be too wet

2. Pack the sand into a pile: The tighter it is packed together, the better it will hold

3. Start with a big pile: It is difficult to add sand to the pile once you've started your building, so you need to start with more than enough

4. Work from the top down: If you do the opposite, you'll have to fix the areas you've already detailed

5. Go slow: Details take time, and sand can be almost impossible to replace once it's gone

6. Get a straw: You can use these "sand blasters" to blow away loose sand from details

7. Have fun: And don't get frustrated.

­—Susan Cohen

The Law Of The Sand At Area Beaches

Isle of Palms
Leash laws: Animals must be on a leash daily (except 5-8 a.m.)
Parking: Side of streets or at Isle of Palms County Park
Facilities: Restrooms at Isle of Palms County Park
Alcohol: Not allowed

Sullivan's Island
Leash laws: From March 31-Nov. 1, no animals are allowed on the beach from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Animals may be on the beach with a leash from 6 p.m.–5 a.m.
Parking: Side of streets
Facilities: No public facilities
Alcohol: Not allowed

Folly Beach
Leash laws: From May 1 to Sept. 30, dogs are not allowed on the beach 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Parking: Honor boxes near the beach
Facilities: Restrooms at the pier
Alcohol: Allowed, but no cans or bottles

Kiawah Island
Leash laws: From March 16-Oct. 31, dogs must be on a leash at all times, except east of the Beach Club & west of Beachwalker Park
Parking: Free parking at Beachwalker County Park
Facilities: Restrooms at Beachwalker County Park
Alcohol: Not allowed

Edisto Beach
Leash laws: Dogs must be on a leash daily
Parking: Available at beach access points
Facilities: No public restrooms
Alcohol: Allowed, but no glass containers

click to enlarge Flying high again - JOSHUA CURRY

Tangled Up in Blew
So you want to be a kiteboarder?

Dark, ominous clouds crept in from downtown, following me as I drove to the Edge of America. I felt like I was being stalked. I wanted to call the cops and get them to put those rain clouds in jail. If only I could have taken out a restraining order. Rats.

By the time I made it to the 10th block, Gene Meree, the guy that was going to teach me how to kiteboard, was already packing up his equipment, calling it a day. His fellow kiteboarders were walking away from shore, shrugging off another "skunked" afternoon.

Although Meree has been an avid windsurfer for 25 years, he didn't pick up a kite until five years ago. And he has been hooked ever since.

As much as the thought of gliding across the surface of the sea and finding yourself momentarily flying in the air is enough to make you want to jump out in the water and give kiteboarding a shot, it's not that simple. Learning to kiteboard is a lengthy process. Lessons with a professional are mandatory. Not only do you have to control the kite, you have to be able to understand wind patterns and predict the weather too.

Meree recommends gettting a trainer kite and watching an instructional video before taking beginner classes with a full-size kite.

There is also a pretty hefty start up fee. Equipment can cost between $1,800-$3,000. Once you have purchased your gear and are ready to get out in the water, you have someone launch your kite from the beach, walk waist deep into the ocean, put on your board, and make the kite dive like you're drawing a rainbow in the sky until you gain momentum and soar into the sky. Actually, if you make it to the stratosphere, something has gone seriously, seriously wrong.

I decided to take on the trainer kite another day at Breach Inlet. The thin lines of the kite (strong enough to cut off a finger) kept twisting as my kite unpredictably catapulted up and down.

Not surprisingly, you need to be in a relatively isolated area when you're kiteboarding, you know, in order to avoid harming innocent bystanders — that is unless you want to get charged with assault and battery.

In a split second, the wind patterns can change and the next thing you know, a kite has crashed on top of your head or the head of others, is in a tangled mess at your feet, or is wrapped around the body of a complete stranger, dragging him down the beach. I know this because that's what happened to me — the tangled mess thing, not the dragging down the beach thing.

After 30 minutes, I had enough. I went back to my car.

I guess you have to learn to tame yourself before you can tame nature. —Alison Sher

Wave Riders: Getting schooled in water sports


Folly Beach Shaka School
$300 per week for surf camp
$45/hr. per person, $75/2hrs per person
6 Block East
Folly Beach
(843) 607-9911

Sol Surf Camp, LLC
$150 for three hour clinic
Up to $100 for 2 hrs. private instruction
(843) 881-6700 or (843) 345-6767

Charleston Watersport Outfitters
Free surf lesson with purchase of board
Private lessons available
1547 Johnny Dodds Blvd.
Mt. Pleasant
(843) 884-9098

Surf the Earth
$50/2 hrs. per person
$300/week for surf camp
47 Da Gullah Way
Pawleys Island

Beach Town
$55/1.5 hrs. per person
$25/all day rentals
1101 Ocean Blvd.
Isle of Palms
(843) 886-9845


Air Company
1313 Long Grove Drive
Mt. Pleasant
(843) 388-9300


Coastal Expeditions
Shem Creek Maritime Center
514-B Mill St.
Mt. Pleasant
Isle of Palms Marina
41st Avenue
Isle of Palms
(843) 884-7684

Nature Adventures Outfitters
Single kayaks, $33/ half day; $45 full day for single kayaks
Double kayaks, $50 half day, $65 full day
1 Shrimp Boat Ln.
Mt. Pleasant
(843) 568-3222

Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission
See website for tour/class descriptions, dates, and prices
Certification also available
861 Riverland Drive
James Island
(843) 795-4386

Sea Kayak Carolina
Lessons and tours, $40-$85
10 a.m.-6 p.m.
1731 Signal Point Rd.
James Island

Ocean Air Kayak
Tours, $40 for 2 1/2 hrs.; $80 for 6-7 hrs.
Classes, $50- $105
520 Folly Rd. #332
James Island
(843) 830-4935


Sea Island Tours
Eco-Tours (Motorboat)
$125 minimum (one to three people); $30 each additional person

Inshore Fishing
$85 per hour (one to three people);
Cruises, negotiable
2223 Folly Road
James Island
(843) 860-5176

Reel Screamer Charters
Motorboat tour, $120 (one to four people); $20/each additional person
Folly Public Beach Boat Landing
(843) 270-4464

Thriller Charleston
Catamaran tour, $30/adults, $20/children under 12
Ripley Light Marina
Ashley Point Rd.
(843) 276-4203

Captain Jack's Sailing Charters
Three-hour tour, $360; $100/each additional hour
1880 Andell Bluff Blvd.
Johns Island
(843) 343-1772


Extreme Jet Ski Rentals
(closed until July 14)
(843) 270-7474

Sun and Ski Rental
Single, $85/hr. or $50/half hr.
Double, $95/hr. or 60/half hr.
1 Center St.
Folly Beach
(843) 588-0033

Tidal Wave Watersports
Single, $90/hr. or $60/half hr.
Double, $110/hr. or $70/half hr.
Safari tour, Single/$115; double/$135
Parasailing, Banana Boat rides, Wakeboarding, Water Skiing, and Tubing also available; see website for pricing
Isle of Palms Marina
69 41st Ave.
Isle of Palms
(843) 886-8456


H2Osmosis Sports
Prices start at $37
3050 Marlin Road
Johns Island
(843) 793-4470

Summer Guide 2008


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