Deron Nettles has been drawn to the ocean his entire life.
The 44-year-old Mount Pleasant man found himself there again on Saturday — this time as a competitor in the South Carolina Governor’s Cup of Surfing, the 25th annual state championship for the Southern S.C. district of the Eastern Surfing Association.
The local district has grown to become one of the largest in the 6,000-member ESA.
Nettles grabbed his board and approached the salty water at The Washout on Folly Beach.
The stiff sea breeze and short, choppy waves weren’t ideal conditions, he said. But that only meant he’d have to work that much harder.
“Your adrenaline’s going. You’re trying to amp yourself up,” Nettles said, describing the moment his board first touched water to tackle the waves.
After showing his skill, Nettles stood barefoot on the sand. Sun glasses and a beach towel that was draped over his head and down his shoulders shielded him from the sun on a 90-degree summer day.
He peered at a bulletin board tacked with numerous pieces of paper flapping in the wind, each page detailed the day’s divisions, athletes and scores.
His self-motivation had proved successful, Nettles said. He managed to advance in all of his heats, including the Masters Longboard and Senior Men divisions.
“I’ve been doing this for years,” Nettles said with a smile. “Coming back every year, you get to see a lot of old friends and just have a fun time.”
Not all of Saturday’s competitors were veteran athletes.
The event’s co-director Nancy Hussey said more and more children have come to partake in the competition each year.
“It’s a sport that the whole family can enjoy,” Hussey said.
This year’s competition was the largest yet, drawing about 225 amateur surfers, Hussey said.
It was also the first year that the event included open stand up paddleboarding, Hussey said, with men and women of all ages competing in that division.
One of the division’s competitors, Beth Lovett, 39, was busy shaking away her nerves before surfing alongside a group of mostly men.
“It’s exhilarating,” she said. “I hope that more women will come out and participate now that we have the option to compete in stand up paddleboarding.”
In addition to contest points, participants competed for about $1,000 in total cash and other prizes, including surfboards donated by an array of shops in Charleston and Myrtle Beach.
The festivities will continue on Sunday with quarterfinals starting at 8 a.m. and finals wrapping up around 4 p.m.
For more information on the Governor’s Cup and the Eastern Surfing Association, visit http://ssc.surfesa.org.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.