Conway man's Myrtle Ball invention on a roll at beaches everywhere

spalisin@thesunnews.comJune 27, 2014 

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The Grand Strand goes all out on providing a place to hit the beach and “let the good times roll,” and on this first full weekend of summer, prime time has just begun.

To enjoy quality time with family and friends, playing games on the beach, no matter what the score and final results, also lets everyone win in the end, too, with friendly competition, good spirits and camaraderie.

One new beach game, Myrtle Ball, is rolling in growth and popularity – not just in sales at Tiki Jim’s at Broadway at the Beach – but in various stores “from Texas to Maine,” with a big East Coast presence, said D.J. Hudson of Conway, the game’s inventor.

The sophomore, studying business and computer science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, said when he developed the “rough prototype” at age 18 while finishing his senior year at Socastee High School, wherever the game was tested with players locally, “it always drew a crowd.”

Passersby at random asked to play Myrtle Ball, said Hudson, whose widowed mother bought him 1,000 sets of the game as a “graduation present,” and they all were sold within two months, with help from media exposure, friends, and “walking up and down the beach” to stir interest on the sand for trying it out. He said this game, played on a court 18 feet long and 8 feet wide, resembles arcade game “Skee-Ball” in some ways, but for the beach, with two target holes, into which balls are rolled, dug into the sand a bit.

Myrtle Ball – a kit that fits into a small drawstring bag with six balls each, two different size buckets (the smaller for more points), a digging cup to build a small moat, and a sand-smoother brush – even reflects its name with Myrtle Beach city colors of blue and yellow, another way of marketing nationwide and worldwide the locale itself besides by name.

Showcasing the product in a Wal-Mart contest that Hudson said more than 30,000 entrepreneurs entered, then making pitches at trade expos last spring in Myrtle Beach, then in January in Orlando, Fla., has given him other business lessons and avenues for networking for stores to make shelf space for Myrtle Ball, competing for sales against some pastimes established for years.

Dressed in a blue shirt and khaki shorts Tuesday morning before a commute to Topsail Beach, N.C., to market the game, Hudson said “rookie experience was used to our advantage,” with such resourceful ways as filling a boat with sand in the latter trade show to better demonstrate the game’s dimensions. He said since receiving a shipment of 5,000 Myrtle Ball games two weeks ago through a local importer, he’s “been trucking ever since” and spending summer break “filling orders” and making regular drives within an hour-and-a-half radius from home.

Aware of how retail space always is a premium, Hudson even has incorporated a TV video atop vertical displays in stores to give shoppers a visual on the game, which entails two to four players alternating ball throws to score per rounds with hopes of reaching 15 points first. The smaller bucket nets 3 points, the larger one 1, so if one player rolled 6 points in a first round, and another player notched three, the first person finished the round with a 3-0 lead.

Hudson said spreading word about Myrtle Ball requires “24 by 7 by 365” devotion. He even worked in a trade show among finals in his freshman year at USC, driving back to school for one exam.

“I don’t think I slept at all that night,” he said.

Details on the game at www.myrtleball.com.

Some other activities for which people might be game with the surf in the backdrop:

Cornhole

Also known by such names as corn toss, bean bag, bean toss and soft horseshoe, cornhole entails a variation of horseshoes but with a wooden box, or platform, onto which corn bags are flipped by innings, scoring 3 points in a hole, or 1 point on the surface, and whatever player or two-person team reaches 21 points first wins. The boxes are spaced 27 feet apart, and players throw four bags each.

The platforms come in myriad variations, even catering to football fans whose favorite team might be the Clemson University Tigers or the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

Details on the game from the American Cornhole Association at www.playcornhole.com.

Volleyball

This game has been tried and true for years on the Grand Strand coastline, even inland at some places, such as Myrtle Beach Resort, 5905 S,. Kings Highway, just south of the city and Myrtle Beach State Park, which has a sand court a short distance from the beach, among its many amenities for guests.

Earlier this month, plans were announced by the city of Myrtle Beach to build a $300,000 sand volleyball area comprising three courts at a location to be announced, which also could be used for NCAA women’s beach volleyball, especially as Coastal Carolina University personnel mull over the possibility of adding beach volleyball to its array of varsity sports.

The recent annual Native Sons Salt Games in downtown Myrtle Beach included a volleyball tournament, and just up the road, the Ocean Dunes Resort and Villaswill play host to the East End Volleyball Big Shot Volleyball Series in October.

Flying discs

Throwing around a Frisbee or another brand of flying disc might be the most inexpensive, most portable game to bring to a beach, park or any open space.

No nets, boundaries or rules need come to play; just pick one up and toss it to a colleague, but not into sand dunes or other areas that protect the beach, and guard wildlife such as nests of eggs laid by sea turtles at this time of year.

One mile west from the beach, drivers passing the Tupelo Bay Golf Center, 1800 U.S. 17 Business, on the northern fringe of Garden City Beach, next to Bi-Lo at the Beach in Surfside Beach, might notice the wire net baskets among the holes on the par-3 golf course.

Players who want to flex their fling on a higher level might want to try out Tupelo Bay’s disc golf course, throwing discs into above-ground targets, with hopes of reaching par, with a final shot of a lob rattling through the chains of a basket for each hole. One nine-hole round costs $7, with rentals of two discs for $2. Details at 215-7888 or www.tupelobay.com/disc_golf/.

Counting birds, dolphins, planes

Although not a sanctioned game per se, visitors to a beach such as Myrtle Beach State Park, on either side of the pier, could simply look skyward for ideas to pass the time and explore the lovely surroundings.

Brown pelicans often make trips back and forth, flying in flocks, single file – with a flap, flap, flap of their wings, then a period of soaring with a wingspan that exceeds 6 feet. It might be fun to count how many pelicans fly by, or how many, like terns, make a splash dive into the water to nab a small fish.

Sometimes, when the water is calm, dolphins can be spotted from the beach, porpoising for air out of the water, showing only their dorsal fins and flukes, or tails. To have that honor to see these intelligent, playful, toothed cetaceans merits counting how many swim by.

With its proximity to Myrtle Beach International Airport, for takeoffs or landings, check how many planes fly over the state park and see what companies’ aircraft are wheels up or down, such as Allegiant Air with its MD-80 planes, with an engine on each side of the tail, or Spirit Airlines’ Airbus 319s or 320s, with an engine mounted below each wing.

Speaking of flying: Consider one more recreation without any points to tally, or a field or court to line up, for which only the wind holds the upper hand – go fly a kite.

Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.

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