On this first day of winter -- blah -- it's worth reflecting on how great we have it in Charleston when it comes to opportunities to be active in the beauty of the Lowcountry.
As we take a hiatus from our event-packed calendar and set goals for fun and fitness in 2012, it's important to know that kindred spirits surround us. Besides the abundance of activities and events in the area, we also have plenty of organizations that provide support and camaraderie in our passions of choice.
Most have nominal membership fees that are barely more than the cost of a yearly magazine subscription. And some clubs and groups in Charleston have been around for decades.
Perhaps the most unlikely club to form in the mountainless, snowless Lowcountry is one devoted to downhill skiing.
But in January 1971, nearly 100 avid downhillers in Charleston formed the Greater Charleston Ski Club, not only to take trips to the mountains, but to bond over warmer activities right here, such as river floating, kayaking and bowling.
While the club, like many, already has held its holiday party, its membership party is Jan. 25 at Red's Ice House. And it has a bunch of trips in the works for the new year.
Formed a year later, in 1972, the Coastal Cyclists has not only hosted a variety of weekly rides and annual events but also has been an advocate for safety and cycling education, partnering with groups such as Charleston Moves, Palmetto Cycling Coalition and the League of American Bicyclists, along with racing teams.
Its membership offers a wealth of knowledge about local cycling routes and issues, and actively taps the power of electronic mailing list services.
Running since '77
The fruits of the Charleston Running Club, formed in 1977, bore quickly with the first running of the Cooper River Bridge Run in the spring of 1978.
While it now has a minor role in the Bridge Run and another race it created, the Kiawah Island Marathon, the club remains an active part of running in the area.
The club organizes two races, the Charlie Post Classic 15K/5K and the Floppin' Flounder 5K, and often holds monthly "socials" with or without guest speakers.
The area stays warm enough in winter for most hardy kayakers to enjoy paddling year-round in coastal rivers, creeks, swamps and lakes. And the Lowcountry Paddlers often get together for day and weekend trips.
The club also holds monthly meetings at Providence Baptist Church on Daniel Island, plus occasional social events throughout the year.
While Charleston's surfing epicenter is The Washout on Folly Beach, new leadership in the Eastern Surfing Association's Southern South Carolina District is hoping to recognize surfing opportunities, particularly for longboard and paddleboards, on the Isle of Palms.
ESA holds all its contests, including the Governor's Cup state championship, on Folly because surfing conditions there tend to be the best in the area.
Another group, the more seasoned Carolina Coast Surf Club, meets once a year on the Isle of Palms for a surfing reunion.
While the Sierra Club is known by many as an advocacy group, it has another arm: getting people into nature via outings.
The Robert Lunz Group of the Sierra Club regularly holds outings to the wilder parts of the Greater Charleston area, along with regular monthly meetings and social gatherings.
Let's meet up
With a new generation of enthusiasts, the club structure can be a bit more virtual (i.e. meet-up groups), even if people still gather informally on local beaches and waterways.
The Charleston Kitesurfing Association formed to encourage and promote safe and respectful kitesurfing and kiteboarding.