Hurricane Florence

Surfers at Folly Beach hit the waves as Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolina coast on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Brad Nettles/Staff

Marshall DePass and his two sons were up before dawn Thursday, standing on the beach on the Isle of Palms.

"We were just waiting to get a glimpse," DePass said.

What they saw did not disappoint. DePass and his sons, and dozens of other surfers, braved the breakers spun off by Hurricane Florence to enjoy one of the best days of wave-riding on Charleston-area beaches in memory

"It was a blast, totally a blast," said DePass, who was on the water with his boys from daybreak to about 4 p.m.

Elmore Marlow spent his day surfing the pier at Folly Beach, as he's done for 30 years.

"It was good," he said. "For Folly Beach, it was very good."

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Hurricane Florence

Surfers at Folly Beach hit the waves as Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolina coast on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Brad Nettles/Staff

Best day ever? Not quite, the surfers agreed.

"It was good, but not the best of all time," said DePass, director of the local branch of the Eastern Surfing Association. "I remember Hurricane Irene was really good, Hurricane Sandy was really good, Floyd was really good."

Marlow was about 14 when Hurricane Hugo came through in 1989.

"The three to four days prior to Hugo, that was really good," he said. "Of course, that could have been because I was two feet shorter then."

Hurricane Florence, which made landfall near Wrightsville, N.C., Friday morning as a Category 1 storm, sent surfers streaming to Isle of Palms. Some Folly Beach regulars could not get to their normal spot on Thursday, DePass said.

"It was packed out there," DePass said. "I have seen more, but it was definitely one of the most crowded days I've ever seen. With Folly closed, we picked up a lot of people. I talked to five or six in the line who had come over from Folly."

Julia Wills, a 28-year-old Mount Pleasant resident, hit the beach at 9 a.m. and stayed out until 3 p.m., enjoying shoulder-high sets.

"It was definitely a lot of fun, but everyone in the lineup thought it was going to be better than it actually was, " she said.

The crowded conditions made for some close encounters on the water.

"Charleston doesn't get good surf, so everyone and their family was out there," Wills said. "A ton of people in the lineup, a lot of people on the beach with their dogs hanging out."

Even though surfers are generally a laid-back bunch, tempers can flare.

"There are enough waves to go around for everyone, but you get some people who don't know surfing etiquette for sure," DePass said. "If somebody's up on a wave, you don't drop in in front of them, or even behind them. It gets dangerous.

"There were definitely some tempers boiling over yesterday. There were two incidents in the water that I observed, and they were both good surfers, so that was disappointing."

There were fewer surfers on Folly Beach, Marlow said.

"That was another factor that made it so good," said Marlow, who lives on James Island.

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Hurricane Florence

Surfers at Folly Beach hit the waves as Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolina coast on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018. Brad Nettles/Staff

The angle at which the swells hit the beach kept Florence from ranking higher than past hurricanes on the surfing scale, DePass said.

"It was a good swell and good clean conditions with a good size to it," he said. "But the way it came in, with Florence already past us ... The storms sometimes come closer and push the waves directly into us."

As he enjoyed the day with his sons, DePass spared a thought for those impacted by the storm. A surfer's delight sometimes comes at risk to others, he acknowledged.

"We definitely think about that," he said. "I've been in contact with other directors up and down the east coast, and some of them are getting the brunt of it. A lot of times, these storms take that turn back out to sea, and you wish they all did that. The waves are great, but you wish there was another way they were turned on."

Said Wills: "You just want to get out there and stay because you know you're not going to get good surf. If you want good surf, you have to wait for a hurricane or go somewhere else."

Friday morning, Wills checked the waves again, just in case.

"It's not even worth going out today," she said.

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC