A Beginner's Guide to Surfing Folly Beach

Ron Cogswell
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Folly is hands down the surfing mecca of South Carolina. Down the coast all the way from Myrtle Beach to Savannah, GA you'll hear word of The Washout or the Folly Beach Pier and how epic it can be (by South Carolina standards at least).

If you're just getting into surfing, or you’re visiting the Charleston area and have room to bring your board, here are a few beginner tips to streamline the process leading up to hitting the waves. We know it can be a little intimidating paddling out into a crowd at the Washout if you're on the less-experienced side of the surfing spectrum. Hopefully, these tips will help.

Check Surf Cameras

Brooke McCallion

If you’ve been surfing for a while, you may already be aware of the various surf cameras located on Folly. But if you aren’t, SurfChex has a camera aimed at the south side of Folly Beach Pier. This is a free cam, and you do not have to put up with any annoying adds every 20 seconds. The only downside is that Surfchex doesn't have a mobile app, so checking it on the fly can be somewhat of a hassle.

Quite the opposite, Surfline has a camera covering a large portion of The Washout. This camera is available on Surfline's mobile app for smartphones, but unless you pay for a monthly subscription, you're going to have to endure 30 second adds every 30 seconds you want to watch the camera. It can be a pain, but the free app is still a handy resource to have.

Learn to Read a Surf Report

Adam Drewes

Surf reports are awesome, but only if you can read them correctly—otherwise you're just staring at what looks like a coastal environments 101 PowerPoint lesson. Important aspects to take note of on a surf report is the swell direction. For Folly Beach, a northeast groundswell produces some of the best conditions (a groundswell is a powerful swell generated way out at sea). You'll also want to take into account the wave period, or how far apart the waves are rolling in one after another. A good wave period will be 15 seconds or longer. Waves are tricky to judge because of all the factors that influence them. A swell forecast three days out might look like gold on your smartphone, but factors like onshore breezes may create a choppy break when you're ready to go surfing. Our favorite surf report resources are Surfline and Magic Seaweed .

Browse Your Board Options

Jake Wheeler

Folly is notoriously choppy and the surf remains mediocre for the majority of the time...but when it’s good, it’s very good. If you're looking to invest in a board, whether you're just getting into it or have relocated to Charleston from somewhere else and do not have one, get a longboard. You're going to catch way more waves in Charleston with a longboard over a shortboard, and have a lot more opportunities to surf.

There's nothing quite as beautiful as a set of 3-foot high waves rolling in over glassy water by the Folly Beach Pier, and you'll be cruising along them nicely with any board over 8 feet, 6 inches. Keep that shortboard handy though, hurricane season is near and you'll be sorry if you don't have one when a huge swell rolls in to The Washout.

One more thing, learn to go left! Waves on Folly break left more often than not. So for all you goofy-footed surfers out there, it’s paradise.

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