FOLLY BEACH — Seaside yoga classes have gotten so popular here that the city is bending over backwards to figure how best to regulate them.
"It’s definitely sweeping the island," said Spencer Wetmore, city administrator. "And once one thing becomes a little bit popular, everybody wants to do it."
Options include requiring City Council approval for a franchise agreement, or a business license to offer beach yoga classes.
Mayor Pro Tem Dale Stuckey said she would talk with residents and rental agencies to ensure that classes don't interfere with public enjoyment of the beach.
Wetmore said beach yoga rules would level the playing field.
"The idea is, we want to make it fair to the other lessons and camps on the beach who are paying to be there," she said.
Yoga classes are not mentioned in the city ordinance that regulates commercial activity on the beach.
Melora Morgan, of Charleston, accepts donations from students for her beach yoga classes and would like to continue.
"I love Folly Beach," she said. "Whatever they need me to do, I’m happy to do."
Some other yoga instructors want to have classes on the beach, too.
"I had a number of people asking me if the weather got warmer, if we could start doing classes on the beach," said Alexandra Lucia. She currently teaches yoga at her West Ashley apartment. But the seashore has a special appeal.
"I think for a lot of people it's very calming or soothing."
Yoga instructors Matthew Stephens and his wife Jenny, who live in Summerville, also want to teach at the beach.
"We’ll see what the city says," he said. "I think the beach offers something special."
Folly's existing regulations for businesses that are allowed on the beach came about because surfing and paddleboard instruction mushroomed into a free-for-all that led to resident complaints.
"We moved to a franchise system to try to get some order out there," Wetmore said.
A franchise also means that the city gets four percent of the revenue from a business on the beach.
A map of businesses on the beach — discussed at the last Council meeting — shows surf sport instruction at four locations from 4th Street East to 10th Street East, and at three locations from near 4th Street West to 7th Street West. Watercraft, beach chair and umbrella rental franchises are approved from 3rd Street East to 3rd Street West.
Up to four surf camp and two paddleboard camp franchises are allowed for up to 40 students each between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. at city-approved locations. Surf and paddleboard lessons for up to five students do not require a franchise agreement but must have Council approval and a business license.
Providers of surf lessons and camps are required to have at least $1 million in liability insurance. Instructors must be lifeguard, CPR and first-aid certified. Watercraft rentals, such as for Jet Skis, also face stringent standards.
The situation at Folly is unique to the area.
At Sullivan's Island, no commercial ventures are permitted on the beach.
Isle of Palms allows a beach business franchise, but there have been no applicants, said Douglas Kerr, director of building, planning and zoning.
There was once a plethora of beach surf and paddleboard classes at IOP, but they faded away when the city imposed new rules on them, he said.
Folly Council plans to address the issue of beach yoga classes at its April 11 meeting.
"I think what we need to do as a Council at our next meeting is to get a grip on what everyone wants to do on this beach and make some decisions about what we're going to allow," Stuckey said.