Droves of surfers and their families lined the shore in Surfside Beach despite rain throughout the day for the Guy Daniels Memorial Surf-Off.
People huddled under tents that stretched south from the beach access at 13th Avenue South celebrating 15 years of the event which honors Guy Daniels, a Surfside Beach teen who collapsed while jogging in 1999 and died from an undiagnosed heart condition.
The annual surf-off continues rain or shine Sunday.
“We’ve got waves,” said Kip Deaton. “That’s all we could ask for. That’s all you need for a contest.”
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Deaton grew up with Guy Daniels and both attended the College of Charleston. He now lives in Charleston and has a short drive but said other friends have moved and travel to the surf-off each year from areas as far away as Alabama and Naples, Fla.
Mikey Pruitt, who is co-director of the surf-off and Guy Daniels Memorial Foundation with Jim Daniels, said the reunion is his favorite part each year.
“Everybody still keeps in touch,” Pruitt said. “We have a lasting bond because of our friend Guy.”
Pruitt said Guy was, in a way, the glue of the group.
“He hung out with anybody that was willing to,” he said. “He was always calling people to get together and before you knew it there were six or seven of us. It was always a big group and he was a big part of that.”
Pruitt and Deaton described their friend as focused and driven.
Jim Daniels said his son was a leader, recalling how he helped start a fraternity that had disbanded on the campus of the College of Charleston rather than joining one already in place.
He said the surf-off making it to 15 years wasn’t expected, but hopes to see it continue.
“The fact that it has lasted for 15 years is wonderful and its surprising,” Jim Daniels said. “Obviously, Guy is my son and I have a personal interest in keeping it going. I’m old and I’m not going to be around forever, but I’d like to see this thing continue.”
Jim Daniels said the foundation created an endowment and hopes that one day it can fully fund the surf-off and the scholarships given annually.
Pruitt, who became co-director in 2005, said $63,000 has been raised and given to area students in the form of $1,000 scholarships.
Jim Daniels said the contest and the scholarships mean a lot to his family.
“It keeps him relevant,” he said. “It keeps his name and his persona alive even though he’s gone. I’m thankful for that, because sometimes when people pass on you forget about them.
“It allows for some good things to happen in his name, even though he’s not here to do those good things.”
Jim Daniels, Pruitt and Deaton all agree it’s an event Guy Daniels would love.
“I think he’d be proud that his name and legacy lived on,” Pruitt said. “We obviously never talked about things like that. ... But, looking back I think he would agree there’s no better way to celebrate his life and his time with us other than a surf competition and a scholarship fund.”
Over the years, Deaton said he’s enjoyed watching the event become big for families.
“When we were younger it was just the kids surfing out here,” he said. “Now you’ve got moms and dads surfing with the kids. It’s really become a family thing.”
Surfer Cam Richards and his father Kelly Richards, who owns the Village Surf Shoppe in Garden City Beach, said the event has been special for their family.
“We always enjoyed the Guy Daniels surf-off,” Kelly Richards said. “The good thing about the Guy Daniels is that it’s more of a fun, laid-back event where we remember Guy and raise some money for some good things.”
Cam Richards was unable to attend this year because he’s competing in the Vans U.S. Open in Huntington Beach, Calif., but said it “was the most fun event in our hometown,” and a “huge stepping stone” in his career.
He said remembers making it to the finals in a mens age group when he was 10 and beating his brother Cole, who is four years his senior.
“It’s always really fun, but we had a pretty strong rivalry because the older brother never wants to lose to the younger brother,” Cam Richards said. “Even now, he’s still so good that he could probably beat me today. But the Guy Daniels was always for bragging rights.”
The competition is expanding and added for the first time in 2013 a stand-up paddleboard race. The race, which was 1.5 miles last year, is 3 miles this year and will be contested Sunday morning.
Jim Daniels said surfing will always be the main event, but said stand-up paddleboarding is a growing sport and adding it, he hopes, will help the surf-off stick around for decades to come.