East Coast surfing is small, inconsistent, and maddening, right? Not so, says one recently returned native son
A massive garage sale closed the 10-year West Coast chapter of my life. It was a rainy day in mid-October 2005—a horrible day for a garage sale—and a truck had just rolled down Aster Street in north Laguna Beach, carrying all of my family’s worldly goods as I looked over what remained in the front yard of our 1930s cottage: a few unscavenged books and tchotchkes, a horribly dinged longboard, the rust-encrusted beach cruiser that SURFER mag employees received as a Christmas bonus back in 1996.
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All that and a small crew of teary-eyed friends and my wife’s heartbroken mother meant that we were leaving.
In the six weeks leading up to that moment, not much thought had gone into the fact that my wife and I would soon be loading our three-year-old dog and five-month-old baby onto an airplane and starting new lives in the ancient South Carolina port city of Charleston. A full-time job offer had come in as a local newspaper reporter, and the reality was that, despite my wife’s happy job as a schoolteacher and the demands of my own unpredictable but fascinating work, our priorities had been permanently altered. We named her Lucy.
With Lucy’s appearance, the trappings and expenses of a Laguna Beach lifestyle suddenly became a lot less important. The openings at The Surf Gallery, the downtown surf movies and strolls to Ocean Avenue Brewery, La Sirena, or 242 Sushi, the sunsets over Heisler Park, the glass-off sessions at Rockpiles, and the regular escapes to Huntington Pier, Trestles, and San Onofre—all these things paled in comparison to our desire to live in a place where we could afford to raise our daughter with a stay-at-home mother.
In fact, becoming parents had also given us a different take on the culture of Laguna Beach. I can’t say that I relished the thought of raising a daughter in a town where the ultimate goal for teenage girls is landing a role as an utterly vapid reality television star.
The Charleston offer came in, and I took it. Despite 10 years out West, it would be a homecoming for me. I spent a good portion of my early life 70 miles up the coast in a little town called Surfside Beach, and had surfed some bone-crushing beachbreak waves at Charleston’s Sullivans Island and Folly Beach, so the idea held at least some allure. My wife loved the thought of having my dad and stepmother nearby up the coast in Pawleys Island, and in earlier visits to Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah had found herself fascinated by the moss-draped stretch of broad rivers, dense forest, and endlessly shifting coastline known as the Lowcountry. We both relished the thought of ocean temperatures in the 80s five months of the year.