Surfing The Washout

This Folly Beach destination is home to some of the best waves in the Carolinas.

A trip to the beach is always a perfect way to spend your Southern weekend, and Folly Beach, just outside Charleston, South Carolina, has long been a prime location for families looking to enjoy the sun.

But drive several blocks along Folly Beach down East Ashley Avenue and you’ll find a special spot where the beachfront houses disappear and some of South Carolina’s best waves come crashing in. An area where aggressive swells can climb head high on good days, making it the perfect spot for surfers to test their mettle.

This stretch of Folly Beach is home to the Washout.

The Southern Weekend caught up with local surfers Ellison and Bryant Thomas of Folly Beach Surf Lessons to get the low down on what they call the best waves in South Carolina.

The Thomas brothers are Charleston natives who have been surfing the Washout for over 16 years. When they aren’t chasing waves around the globe, they can be found sharing their knowledge with newcomers on Folly and ripping through the Washout every week.

Here is what the Thomas brothers say you need to know if you plan on spending your Southern weekend at the Washout:

The Name 

Hurricane Hugo opened up this beachfront real estate to surfers in 1989.
Hurricane Hugo opened up this beachfront real estate to surfers in 1989.

The Washout earned its name in 1989 after several homes on the beach and much of the land they stood on were washed away by Hurricane Hugo. With the block cleared of homes, the wind can whip up not only what surfers call the best waves in the Lowcountry, but possibly in the state.

The Location

When the right side of the road is clear of houses and trees, you've made it.
When the right side of the road is clear of houses and trees, you’ve made it.

The Washout isn’t lined with cross streets like much of the rest of Folly, but according to Ellison, it is not hard to miss. “When you drive down East Ashley into the beach, the trees kind of make a tunnel. And as soon as you drive out of that tunnel, the Washout forms.” That opening due to Hurricane Hugo allows beachgoers to park right along the unobstructed beach. “Instead of having to walk down trails, you are right on the beach as soon as you get to the Washout.”

What Surfboards To Bring

Shortboard. Longboard. The Washout is great for all styles of surfing.
Shortboard. Longboard. The Washout is great for all styles of surfing.

Because of the variety of waves you can find along Folly and at the Washout, Ellison says surfers coming to town are good to bring anything and everything they have on hand. “A lot of surfers like to stick to one type of surfboard to ride, but you can maximize your day and have way more fun if you bring a lot of boards.”  The brothers keep a shortboard, a wider “fish” board, and a longboard on hand so they can tackle whatever the Atlantic brings them.

Know What You’re Getting Into

Bryant Thomas riding a wave at the Washout.
Bryant Thomas riding a wave at the Washout.

According to Ellison, waves can be anywhere from head high and aggressive to a couple feet high and calm. Not to mention what is going on under the surface. “It can be dangerous if you get out here and you don’t know what you’re doing, and you get out there on a rough day with rip currents and different tides.” If you have any questions, the brothers recommend speaking to a fellow surfer when you arrive. “Everyone is  super friendly around this area, so it is helpful to learn from them.” Also, it is a good idea to check the surf reports online.

Surfing For Beginners

Surfer ripping through a smaller wave at the Washout.
Surfer ripping through a smaller wave at the Washout.

Even with the Southern hospitality, the Washout can be serious business. While newcomers are always welcome, it is important to respect both the water and your fellow surfers. “A lot of surfers spend a lot of their time waiting for good waves at the Washout,” Ellison says. For beginners with their eyes set on the Washout, he recommends starting out on the waves between 2nd and 10th Streets. Those areas offer calmer, yet still quality waves so you can get used to the surf at Folly before moving on to the popular, more advanced surf spot.

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