FOLLY BEACH -- Surfers who made it past qualifying rounds in the 22nd annual state surfing championship Saturday hope the distant Hurricane Danielle will serve up some epic waves for today's final round.
About 200 surfers -- from small children to veterans in their 50s and 60s -- participated in the Governor's Cup of Surfing, which is the championship for three districts of the Eastern Surfing Association. Surfers from the Myrtle Beach and Savannah areas, as well a few from North Carolina, joined local surfers in what is the most competitive contest of the year at the area's premier venue for surfing: the Washout at Folly Beach.
"This is a really big contest," said Jeff Moseley, co-director of the championship and a representative from Georgia. "It's as big as any regional (championship)."
Mother Nature almost gave her full cooperation.
The general consensus among surfers was that the waves were bigger than usual but that winds from the Northeast kicked up mid-morning and "disorganized" conditions. Also, a strong, southward current made it harder for surfers to stay in positions for judging.
In fact, rip currents were so bad that on two occasions children playing in the water were swept out and had to be rescued. In the afternoon, surfers Rutledge Godley and Trevor Seckinger stopped competing to pull two children out, according to Nancy Hussey, a local ESA representative and Governor's Cup co-director.
"One of the boys was going under when he was saved and very well could've drowned," Hussey said.
Still, surfers such as Rick Anson, a veteran surfer of 42 years, called Saturday's waves the best of the summer -- so far. He and others had strong hopes that the wind will "lay down" today and allow the waves pulsing in from Danielle to be clean.
State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, was competing in what he described as "the old guy's longboard" division. He predicted that today's conditions would be better.
"It's going to be better and bigger (today), and hopefully there'll be a little less wind," Campsen said.
The state championship was named the Governor's Cup of Surfing in 2004 when Gov. Mark Sanford showed interest in the event.
Another thing that has changed is that the event has morphed into a multi-generational family event, as many of the area's original surfers became parents and even grandparents. Many of their children also have become involved in competitive surfer.
"It's a big family affair," said surfing judge and surfer Norman Godley, 55, of Mount Pleasant. "It's a lot more kid-friendly than it used to be."
Today's contest will resume about 7:30 a.m. and will conclude around 4:30 p.m. The final contests will be the men's and women's open division championships.