Surfing, cycling, runs make February a busy time

The monthly Swamp Fox Gravel Grind group rides start on Feb. 7.

February used to be hibernation month in the Lowcountry, but that’s changing quickly.

The calendar’s shortest month is now hosting a surfing tradition, a new off-pavement biking activity, four Valentine’s Day-themed runs, an aerial fitness workshop and even a long-held mud run that used to be in April.

But before we look ahead to February, there are a couple of events to conclude the month of January.

Nativity School, a Catholic school on James Island, is holding its sixth annual Flapjack 5K Run and Family Fun Walk from 8:30-10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Stono Shelter at James Island County Park. As the name indicates, the event features hot pancakes, served by Knights of Columbus Council No. 6250, after the race

Following the 5K, children ages 8 and under can compete in the 100-yard, quarter-mile and half-mile races. Fees are $30 for the 5K and $20 for the one-mile fun walk.

Girls on the Run, a nonprofit that provides confidence-boosting 24-lesson curriculum for pre-adolescent girls, is coming to Charleston later this year. In the meantime, the local council is raising funds, recruiting coaches and solidifying locations.

A yoga class benefit will be at 7 p.m. today at the East Shore Athletic Club on Daniel Island, 295 Seven Farms Drive. The fee is $15, of which 100 percent of the money goes to the council.

One event that embraced winter’s chill three years ago is Ocean Surf Shop’s Ice Box Open. Yep, a surfing contest when the waters and winds are at the chilliest in the Lowcountry.

Organizers used the time format of some surf contests on the West Coast and Hawaii by holding a contest when the conditions were best during a certain window of time.

This year, Bates Hagood of Ocean Surf Shop said they extended that window from three weekends in February to six weekends, starting Saturday and going until March 8. (On Monday, Hagood says Sunday looked possible. See the shop’s website,, for updates.)

“We will pick a weekend day with potential for the best surf. I will do some forecasting and then keep my fingers crossed. We will make the call no later than three days out,” says Hagood, adding that a switch in insurance coverage allowed for a larger window.

“It is good for being able to wait for waves. We have been filling the slots for competitors, and each year more surfers have been participating. Some people even show up to watch, but it is usually cold and sometimes raining, so a lot of people don’t want to sit out there and watch.”

The Ice Box Open is a pro-am contest format, with heats being 20 minutes long with four men or women per heat. The finals in each division will be 25 to 30 minutes long. There are 32 spots for men’s division, 16 spots for the women and 16 spots for the groms.

Top prizes are $1,000 for men, $400 for women and a $250 gift card to Ocean Surf Shop for groms.

Information and entry forms will be available on the Ocean Surf Shop website, Facebook or by calling Ocean Surf Shop at 588-9175.

Cycling continues to evolve into more specialties, and the latest to emerge are “gravel grinding,” which involves riding “road bikes on steroids” on nonpaved and gravel roads.

And while Mount Pleasant Velo has held the three-day, staged Hellhole Gravel Grind in the Francis Marion National Forest in September since 2013 and has plans for another Sept. 18-20 this year, monthly gravel grind group rides starting Feb. 7, with subsequent rides held on the second Sunday of every month through August.

Local cyclist Anne Ahern Moore says the rides are designed to help some people gain experience riding in the vast woods of the Francis Marion.

“Many riders are intimidated by the forest and the gravel group rides will allow these riders to experience the forest in a safe group setting,” says Moore. “Depending on the attendance, the ride may be broken up into different speed groups with ride leaders. Riders will be encouraged to stay together as a group.”

Rides will start at 8 a.m. Feb. 8, March 8, April 12, May 10, June 14, July 12 and Aug. 9 from the shopping center on the corner of Cainhoy and Clements Ferry roads or other locations announced on the Swamp Fox Gravel Grinders Facebook page. Distances will be between 40 and 60 miles. Cyclists must bring their own food and beverages.

For most of the quarter century I’ve been running in the Charleston area, there were no Valentine’s Day-themed running events (at least that I can recall). Now there are four on Feb. 14 (and among a whopping eight local races in February.)

Find out more about Cupid’s Chase 5K and Wando Hearts & Soles 5K on the Charleston Running Club website,

The second annual Cupid’s Undie Run: Charleston, which raises money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, features a one-mile fun run and is more of a party.

Also, in its second year, Onshore Racing’s You Can’t Run From Love 8K will start at 9 a.m. Feb. 14 at West Ashley Park and finish at Parson Jack’s Cafe.

Aerialist and acrobat Christine Van Loo will be in town for the Cirque de la Symphonie concert for the North Charleston POPS! at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7. While here, she’ll also be conducting a workshop 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 7 at Aerial Fit’s Circus Building, 1045 5th Ave. in West Ashley. The cost is $75.

More on that in next week’s edition and at

The Charleston area’s oldest and most challenging obstacle course race, The Citadel Bulldog Challenge, may just get more challenging.

Organizers have moved the challenge, which used to be held in April and was moved to early March last year, into February, albeit the last day of the month.

Marine Staff Sgt. Ben Cohen said the 19th annual challenge was held earlier again this year because “The Citadel had a very busy schedule this year and could not get us in for the April run.”

“However, we think this will provide an excellent added element to the whole event. It will bring out some real internal fortitude in people,” says Cohen.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.