As monster surf crashed around them, surfers launched from the shimmying pilings of the dune walkways into the froth below when Hurricane Irene brushed by three years ago.

Folly surf

To see the break at Folly Beach from Tropical Storm or Hurricane Arthur, go to

This is what the best of them live for - those moments when the usually docile East Coast break shows its teeth.

And they'll be out there Thursday, hoping for the worst from Arthur, even though the forecast is for surf only about half as high as Irene's awe-provoking 10- to 15-foot crests. Everyone else, though, should stand back, surfers and safety officials say.

"Irene was incredible," said Annie O'Brien, as she carried her board from the Washout on Wednesday. Arthur won't be that good, but the surf will have size for the first time in a little while, she said. O'Brien, 22, knows. She grew up on Folly, works at a surf shop in town and, yes, she was out in Irene.

The Washout is legend on the Southeast coast, an unusual nook facing almost east along the usually southeastern-facing beaches, where it tends to get the best break in the state. And tropical cyclones make for the best break - until they get so powerful the break becomes too big a beast.

As soon as forecasters called for a tropical storm to move toward Charleston, word went out on the surfer social media "coconut grapevine."

"Everyone who has ever thought about surfing will be out here (Thursday)," said Kellen Cooney, of Charleston.

On Thursday, the surf will be pro turf, a ride for veterans who know their way around unruly breaks and sudden rip currents sucking the break rapidly out to sea. They and public safety officials encourage everybody else to stay out of the water. The National Weather Service issued a high surf advisory Wednesday night until midnight Thursday. The service also warned of a high rip-current risk and cautioned people from entering the surf.

Folly Beach Public Safety officers will be out, said interim Chief Andrew Gilreath. But crews haven't had to rescue a storm surfer in at least a few years.

"Typically, those guys willing to go out in that kind of water have done it and tend to have a little better grasp of what goes on out there," Gilreath said. "We just ask them to use sense. Stay away from structures. Make sure of they're confident in their abilities before they get swept out to sea."

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