Folly Beach Diary
January brings quiet to Folly Beach. Distant ocean sounds and humming heat pumps provide background music to the silence. The occasional Carolina wren, cardinal, dog bark, or stray car punctuates the calm. January’s salt marsh provides a different kind of quiet. Winter marsh sounds include a random dolphin breath, or maybe a red tail hawk screech, an osprey cry, a kingfisher’s chatter, or an oystercatcher’s whistle. Just offshore, January brings yet another quiet.
Sitting on a surfboard, isolated from land by sixty or so yards, I hear no cars or air conditioners, no wrens, or cardinals, no kingfisher chatter. Instead, I hear the periodic extended rumble of breaking waves and ripples lapping against the board.
The third week of January brings clean, long period waves. Despite an air temperature hovering just above forty, I pull on my wetsuit and paddle out alone. Gloves, booties, and suit insulate me well against winter’s ocean water. A slight north wind peels the waves back a bit. My exposed ears and neck feel the wind’s bite. Turbid ocean waters hide my feet.
I miss a wave and then turn to paddle back out. The lip of a breaker thumps my chest. I hear an “ugh!” and realize it is I who made that sound. A voice breaks the silence, and I realize it is me talking to myself. I talk about how cold I am. I tell myself “one wave and I’m going in.” I shrug and talk to myself about talking to myself.
“People talk to themselves …” I say. I stop talking for a while and begin listening again … osprey, breaking waves. A peak appears on the horizon. “Here comes my wave,” I say to myself. “Don’t break … hold up, wave … come on!”
I hear vigorous paddling sounds, and then a “humph” as I spring up. Balance, look, cut … Water rushes under the board in a “fsst, fsst” sound. Some seconds later, I dismount in the shallow white water. On my stomach, I hijack the next wave into shore.
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ANTON DUMARS, a thirty-three year resident of Folly Beach and a US Navy submarine veteran, serves as a geology adjunct professor at the College of Charleston and a Coastal Scientist for Tideline Consulting, LLC. Mostly, he likes showing off the South Carolina salt marsh to guests aboard his tour boat, “Tideline”.