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  • Writer's pictureMac

Updated: Aug 25, 2022

"Sick” was Chad Davis’s text reply when I told him I was almost there. Having met Chad before and knowing his affable personality, I read it and laughed aloud. We sat down at the Mex1 in West Ashley right across from the new location of his Carolina Surf Brand shop on a hot and sweaty summer afternoon. He had texted me to say he had gotten us a table since the bar was packed. In true Chad fashion, he added “Blue shirt, Bald head. Haha.” The waitress, who of course Chad knew, came for our order. Chad dutifully didn’t order alcohol since he had to go work at his shop later. Being at Mex1, I had their pineapple and habanero margarita on the brain. “Large or regular?” asked the kind waitress. “Large. Do it!” said Chad, guilting me into ordering the large. I ordered the large. That’s how you spread the stoke…Chad Davis style.

Chad is the co-creator and owner of both the Carolina Surf Brand and the Carolina Surf Film Festival. The Carolina Surf Film Festival was first in 2014, co-created by Chad, and his college friends Chuck Gainey and Bo Edmonds. They made T-shirts for the event that today still has the same original and familiar Poseidon trident-like and ocean inspired logo they came up with back then. By the second night of the three night festival, all the shirts had sold out. Chad explained “That first year, we were surprised that anybody showed up. People showed up in droves. It was insane. We were blown away.” They were beginning to be recognized around town as the guys who put on the surfing film festival and everyone wanted their swag. “The light bulb went on then” says Chad regarding the fact that he and his partners clearly knew they had something special.

Chad drew on his experience of helping to run a clothing company when he lived in San Diego, as well as doing marketing and media for Maverick Records and Warner Brothers Records in Los Angeles, so he had some experience. So, they thought “let’s make a couple T-shirts like we just made but what are we going to call it?” Chad, Chuck, and Bo sat at the Surf Bar in Folly Beach trying to come up with a name. Finally they just agreed that Carolina Surf Brand was appropriate. Chad says “it describes exactly what we love. We love the Carolinas, we love to surf, and it’s a brand. It’s a lifestyle. It fits”. The Carolina Surf Brand was born. They kept doing the surfing film festivals as both that and the brand were part time for all three of them in the beginning, with Chad still working as a music supervisor at the time. Chad eventually left the music industry and started to get serious about the brand and the festival. Late in 2018, Bo and Chuck pursued their other careers and Chad became the sole owner.

photo by Paul Mulkey Sr

Chad is a surfer through and through. He grew up in Charleston and remembers the old heavy board his Dad first put him on. Cringing, he says the roughed-up fiberglass surface was like a cheese grater that took away some skin in those early days. Then his family moved away when he was ten years old to Murfreesboro, TN then Bowling Green, KY. Thankfully, his mom had the will and the fortitude to make sure they spent their summers in Charleston or the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The surfing continued.

He moved back to Charleston for college and remembers surfing locally at the Charleston area beaches when “there was nobody here. So accessible at that time, probably a quarter of the people there are now. It was not a big deal to find a parking spot. The surf shops had big followings and giant surf teams of the legends like Rick Tanner, Glenn Hansen, Ricky Jones and all these guys that were stalwarts at the Washout. You did not surf the Washout unless you were a ripper. You might get punched back in the day when we had corporal punishment. And it worked. It’s more crowded now which is good for the sport in a way because it opens it up to so many people but people just need to educate themselves.” It’s worth noting that Chad and his shop staff try to politely educate people who come into his shop to buy a surfboard, particularly getting them on the right board for their abilities and the conditions they normally surf in.

photo by Lindsey Graham

There was the “secret” semester he spent surfing in Costa Rica unbeknownst to his parents. With apologies to them after the fact and tail between his legs, it was back to Charleston to complete school. Then Chad was off to Los Angeles for five years in the late nineties and then onto San Diego in the early 2000’s. The surfing in southern California “was so fun but so crowded. The pluses and minuses…the pluses are pretty good…perfect weather, perfect surf”. Chad recalls one of his first surf sessions in Southern California with some local friends. They pulled up to the first place and it was about chest high and peeling down the line. His local California friends “were like let’s go check somewhere else”. “What are you talking about!?” Chad said incredulously as he had already put on his wetsuit, then proclaimed he was paddling out right there. “Ok, we’ll watch you and see if it’s worth it” his friends said. Chad immediately caught and surfed three nice waves. His friends paddled out real fast and told Chad they couldn’t believe he could surf so fast on those little waves. “You haven’t seen little waves, brother”. Chad added “the whole east coast gives you an advantage. It makes you hungry”. This led to us talking about some of the most famous east coast born surfers such as Kelly Slater, the Hobgood Brothers, Ben Bourgeois, and Cam Richards...and how surfing small east coast waves when they were growing up at least partially contributed to their success.

“East coasters don’t quit surfing, west coasters quit surfing” Chad said, then adding that he had met some middle age California surfers who had quit surfing and had whole garages full of surfboards. “It just blew me away. How the hell do you live right across from an amazing surf break in San Diego. How do you look at that every day? A lot of guys do that. A lot of guys always said they surfed and I’m always like I’ll believe it when I see it”. There was a neighbor who Chad had never seen surfing before but he talked about being a ripper. Then one day he said he would paddle out with Chad. He went into his garage full of boards, finally pulling out an old yellow board with a dangling fin, creating more doubt in Chad’s mind. They paddled out and “he was the best surfer out of all of us by far. He probably hasn’t surfed since”, Chad laughed. “You grow up with that wave and you have no idea what you have in your own back yard. We grow up with this wave (referring to our east coast waves) and we think it’s the best thing in the world.” Chad added later, “this (Charleston) is an outdoor paradise that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention”.

photo by James McGavik

Chad moved back to the Charleston area for several years, surfing whenever he could. He and his wife recently moved to Wilmington to be closer to her family and his own father and brother, who all live in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina. He’s been surfing there a lot. He opened up the first Carolina Brand Surf retail store on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk. The shop sells surfing and beach apparel, hats, women’s beach and surf-oriented jewelry, and surfboards. He then opened up the new retail store in West Ashley this past April. You can also shop on their website Their branded apparel can also be found in some other surf shops in the Carolinas. Strategically located next to the popular Turbo Cone ice cream shop and across the street from Mex1, I visited the new shop on St Andrews Boulevard in West Ashley. It was really nice and orderly, bright with beach ambience, easy on the eyes, and had a colorful and plentiful assortment of surf and beach apparel, hats, and surfboards…including a large women’s section. I found a cool moisture wicking hat I can wear out on the water.

Before the Carolina Surf Film Festival was created, as a music supervisor, Chad had worked on the soundtracks for Taylor Steele’s “Loose Change”, “Good Times”, and “Modern Collective”. He also did soundtrack work on Jack Johnson’s “Thicker Than Water” and “September Sessions”. In addition, he also worked on the soundtrack for the Johnny Decesare/Poor Boyz production of “The Windsurfing Movie”, which really excited me as I’m a long-time windsurfer and still have that DVD. He and I lamented how the surf film industry has evolved from the excitement of walking into your local surf shop to buy the latest VHS, then DVDs, to streaming on YouTube and other platforms, and now the emphasis on quick video hits on social media.

From left to right: Cody Carter, Kai Lenny, Johnny Decesare, and Chad Davis at the premiere of The Windsurfing Movie at Red Bull HQ

I asked Chad how surf films have changed over the years. “There’s not a lot of people making full length surf movies anymore. It’s a lot of shorts, a lot of five minuters. Which I love but the attention span of the normal person has changed since we grew up as kids”, Chad says. “It’s really whittled down to where you’re just getting the guys who are very professional at it and have really good backers. Like Patagonia, Yeti and the Malloy Brothers.” He added, “the local filmmakers have gotten kind of scarce. We showed Ronan Lurkin’s movie last year and it was really good. And that’s really the only local one we’ve had in a while.” I take that as a hint to all you local aspiring surf filmmakers out there to make some more surf movies.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that people enjoy the escape and watching what other surfers are doing around the world. The Carolina Surf Film Festival is still very popular. A small panel of friends review and pare down the list of films to be shown at the festival. Chad also reaches out to filmmakers to get their films included. The Carolina Surf Film Festival is now one night here in Charleston. Mex1 just announced it will be held at their West Ashley location on Saturday, October 15th. Another night has been added in Wilmington, NC and there are discussions to also add one in Myrtle Beach, both also in October.

Chad gets it. The Carolina Surf Brand website says “We're proud to be the underdogs on the east coast. It requires dedication and grit to be a surfer here. It's flat, it's cold, it's windy... in short, it's imperfect. The dirty south is also a hidden gem — it's warm, it's blue, it's tight. Carolina Surf Brand celebrates all of the above.” It’s apparent that people like Chad are the ones who spread the stoke on a local level. It’s critical now more than ever to support local businesses. Forget the online catalogs and the big box retail chains. In the spirit of supporting our local shops, go pay a visit to the Carolina Surf Brand shop in West Ashley or Carolina Beach, check out their website, follow them on social media, and take in the upcoming Carolina Surf Film Festivals in October.

photo by Mac Barnhardt

Chad offered, “My philosophy is just do it. If you put your heart into it, it’s going to work. If you put your heart and soul into something and you don’t falter away from what you know, I feel like you’re going to succeed. I love my job. You can’t beat that.”

Carolina Surf Brand shop locations:

828 St Andrews Blvd #200

Charleston, SC 29407

11 Pavilion Ave S Unit 2

Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Follow Carolina Surf Brand on Instagram and FaceBook. And check out their website, where you can also get more information on the Carolina Surf Film Festival.

written by Mac Barnhardt

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Updated: Jul 26, 2022

Justin Schaay is a local Charleston ocean athlete who paddles and surfs our local waters. He owns the Charleston area Epic Kayaks dealership (check out He can provide invaluable advice, demos, lessons, and get you set up on the right equipment. Justin also organizes group paddles in the area sometimes including a Saturday morning loop around Sullivan's Island and Thursday evenings at the Wappoo Boat Landing. Other paddle craft besides surf skis, such as outrigger canoes and stand up paddle boards, are encouraged to join as well (everyone responsible for their own safety plan). Follow the "Surfski & Paddle Charleston" Facebook Group for group paddle announcements.

Justin also works as an Expedition guide for Quark Expeditions on their Antarctica trips primarily as the SUP guide, also runs paddle support, and is a safety driver. These Quark Antarctica expeditions typically start off in Ushuaia, South America and head across the Drake Channel to the Antarctic peninsula, then move around that area exploring and offering landings, zodiac cruises and paddle adventures.

He has many years of experience in long distance paddle races and events all over the world including participating in the M2O (Molokai to Oahu) downwind race on SUP, the Watertribe Everglades Challenge 300 miles Tampa to Key Largo on SUP and the Watertribe North Carolina Challenge on a Windsurfer, the Devils Isle Challenge on Bermuda, the Dusi Canoe Marathon in South Africa, and the Chattajack31 long distance race event in Chattanooga multiple times on SUP and surfski.

Justin has recently included his teenage daughter, Sienna, on some of these adventures sharing a double kayak with her in the Seventy 48 race in Seattle, the Chattajack 31, and most recently the Yukon River Quest race in Alaska.

The Yukon River Quest race recap below was written by Sienna Schaay. All pictures & captions provided by Justin Schaay, unless where otherwise noted. A big thank you to both Justin and Sienna for their contributions to the Charleston Ocean Athletes Journal:

The Yukon River Quest (YRQ) proved to be quite the race, especially with this years added challenge of high flood waters. There was a debate going on about whether or not the race would run which after the long journey we made would have been very disappointing. The YRQ is a 444 mile/715 kilometer endurance race from Whitehorse to Dawson City down the Yukon River. A variety of solo and teams compete in the race including sups, kayaks, canoes and voyagers. The race takes anywhere from 39 hours (the new race record) to 70 hours to complete. It started the morning of June 22nd in 2 different heats. There are also 10 hours of mandatory rest which racers split between 2 different campgrounds. Due to some of the stormier weather and the added struggles of a high water year 40% of teams did not end up finishing. Although everyone who even attempted deserves lots of praise.

Pre start in Whitehorse - you start in a park and run down to the river.

We arrived in Whitehorse almost a week before the race started to finalize all of our gear and test out the new boat we were to be paddling. Up until the Friday before the race, we actually had no boat due to some major shipping delays. Luckily the shipment came in and we got to test out our race boat. Due to my short legs being unable to reach the foot pedals in the back of the boat, I swapped into the front seat in which I had never sat before. This change required some adjusting, but everything worked out well and I didn’t have my dad's head blocking my beautiful views of the Yukon River.

Sienna & Justin - photo by @Schaienfotografie

The day before the race all of the racers were sat down and given a presentation on the major risks we would face during this race. The major one was this year's high water that made it very hard to find places to stop along the river. Then came Wednesday, the official start day where racers were lined up 400 meters from the start and told to run down to our boats.

Views along the way - a real mix of weather but overall pretty good apart from a couple of storms.

The race itself was quite the adventure. We encountered multiple thunderstorms and even watched a tree get struck by lightning while out on the water. We successfully made it through the ripping Five Finger rapids and the Lake Laberge which seemed to last an eternity. On the first night we were even rewarded with a beautiful sunset, although the Yukon is known for their “Midnight Sun” meaning the sunlight truly never disappears.

Once we had made the first two legs from the start to Carmacks and then from Carmacks to Minto, we were faced with the final leg of the race, which definitely proved to be the hardest. We were warned that due to flood waters there would be little chance of stopping on this last leg from Minto to the finish which was approximately 300 km long and took us roughly 20 hours to complete. We definitely struggled in the early morning hours after leaving at 11:30pm for this final leg. We turned on our speaker and played some music to try keep us awake. We welcomed any passing boat hoping for a chance to chat and even tried “sleep paddling”. The navigation during this part also became quite tricky because of the impressively large size of the river and multiple channels to choose from. My Dad’s favorite question was “Sienna what’s around the corner? Answer: Another corner! Fortunately we had some good company on this last leg and were joined by SUP paddler Lincoln Dews which helps lift one’s spirits.

After what felt like the longest home stretch we finally made it to the finish line in the old fashioned mining town of Dawson City. We congratulated our fellow finishers and had a great awards ceremony.

Scenes around Dawson

My dad and I, known as team SchaayVentures, paddled a double kayak and finished the race in 47 hours and 39 minutes. We placed 1st in the mixed K2, 4th in K2s and 18th overall. I was this year's youngest racer as well. We had quite the adventure and made many new friends along the way.

Sienna's swollen hands and Justin's blisters

At the finish in Dawson

Shoutout to Epic paddlers Chris Lightbound and Stephen Ball for the company and encouragement on the lake and for their brave efforts to help rescue another paddler.


Team SchaayVentures

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  • Writer's pictureMac

You have probably seen them while walking along the local beaches. Those colorful half circles moving along the ocean’s white capped glimmering surface. Hold on a minute. The person holding that half circle seems to be levitating above the water’s surface. What in the world is that? You are witnessing a new revolution in ocean watersports. These water men and women are taking advantage of recent innovative advancements in foil and sail/kite technology. It is called wing surfing, winging or wing foiling. Or the apropos “wing dingers.” Take your pick. It is the newest and fastest growing water sport in the world.

Dave Cavanaugh wing surfing a wave at Isle of Palms


In speaking to some of the local wingers, it is clear this is a very approachable sport for anyone to try and take up as a new outdoor activity. Many of the wing foiling folks that you see at our local beaches have a kitesurfing or windsurfing background, sometimes both. However, Force Kite & Wake shop owner Stan Radev says you do not have to have kiting or windsurfing experience. Radev adds that it helps a little bit, but he estimates 80% of the winging packages purchased are by the person that just wants to pick up a new sport or thinks that it looks cool. Local winger David Ryerson learned to wing foil as the sport was just getting started here two years ago. He did not have surfing or kitesurfing experience and said “it is the most fun I have ever had in my life. For me, it is the most incredible feeling…a very healthy addiction.”

David Ryerson luffing the wing on a nice wave

While it is an approachable sport for anyone, Radev says most people who are coming from sailing or kiteboarding backgrounds also go through a learning curve. “It’s harder than it looks…so you need to go through the proper steps.” Radev says lessons are best because “it will short cut a lot of the corners.” Ryerson agrees, adding that if any of this sounds intimidating, the wing course is highly recommended. Sealand Adventure Sports shop owner, Scott Hyland adds that "wing surfing is less intimidating for most people. It has more access to water since long kite lines in kitesurfing can be restrictive on where you launch. As you progress, you can really charge the waves."

Dave Cavanaugh is loyal to the foil - he's a very skilled kiteboarding foiler, SUP surf foiler, and wing foiler

Force Kite & Wake Instructor Michael Brandon says winging is so approachable you can purchase your own gear and go out and learn by yourself. Winging does not require a foil as you can use a wing on a simple stand-up paddle board or floaty windsurf board. That is the easiest and safest way for beginners to learn this new sport. Brandon also recommends taking lessons because that provides the fastest learning curve. Both Force Kite & Wake and Sealand Adventure Sports started providing winging lessons this year.

Brandon says it usually takes 3 separate lessons to get up and going on the foil using the wind to power the wing. The first lesson is to teach basic wing handling on the beach, then get on the water with a stand-up paddle board using the wing to get the feel of the mechanics of the wing generating power. The second lesson is to learn how to get up on a foil, by using electronic foil board technology, also known as E-foils. This is the easiest and best way to get the feel of how a foil board behaves underneath your feet. Plus, the size of the E-foil board closely resembles the size of a wing board. The third lesson puts it all together on the water with the wing and the wing foil board.

David Ryerson doesn't have a windsurfing or kitesurfing background. Now look at him.

Radev emphasized safety, to approach it the right way, and to choose the proper gear. He added that it is quite easy to take the wrong approach, buy the wrong equipment, and not like the sport if you do not get the proper guidance by local knowledgeable people. Without the proper knowledge in any ocean water sport, emergencies can happen quickly. Take Charleston’s notorious fast moving tidal currents for example. Radev says it helps to know what kind of board and wing work best in your local waters, where to go winging and in what conditions so you do not get yourself in trouble.

Dave Cavanaugh loves to ride the ocean swells


Attempts at launching winging as a new sport have occurred before. The aptly named Wind Weapon was first introduced by Tom Magruder in the mid 1980s in the Columbia River Gorge area near Hood River, Oregon. Search “wind weapon” on YouTube to see that early invention in action. However, modern wind sport board foils had not been developed at that time, and the sport never really took off. Fast forward to 2011 when Tony Logosz, also in Hood River, took what Magruder had done and worked on more development. However, Logosz felt it was still not quite ready for prime time. When board foiling technology improved soon after that, he began to see the possibilities of the combination and knew user adoption would soon take off. In 2019 within a couple of weeks of each other, Robby Naish introduced the Wing-Surfer through his Naish brand and Logosz, through his company Slingshot, introduced the SlingWing. More sail wing and wing specific board introductions followed soon after from other companies.

David Ryerson heading back out through the wave zone


Explaining winging and wing foiling first requires some background on the other two related wind powered water sports. For the uninitiated, windsurfing is best simply described as a surfboard powered by a sail connected to the board that the sailor holds on to, using the sail's boom handle. Kitesurfing is best simply described as a small surfboard or wakeboard powered by a kite with long strings that the rider holds on to, via a handle where the strings are attached. Both ocean wind sport endeavors have unique differences and advantages depending on who you talk to.

Dave Cavanaugh, in his happy place


Winging simplifies things. It provides the sail power in the wind but is not attached to the board like windsurfing and it is not attached to strings like kitesurfing. Radev says, “it’s a very small foot print and is more sustainable to gusty winds.” The wing is lightweight with inflatable leading edges and a single inflatable center strut that provides the rigid stability in the wind. The rider can hold them using a boom or handles on the center strut. This enables beginners to learn a new wind sport more quickly and with less effort. It also allows advanced riders to surf ocean swells on the foil while “luffing,” the term for letting the wing fly out in a neutral position in the wind.

unidentified winger at the 2022 Fort2Battery race in the Charleston Harbor


Adding a foil to any water sport introduces another dimension and increased difficulty all to itself. Both windsurfing and kitesurfing have incorporated foil technology in recent years to add a different sensation and feel out on the water. One can ride in more places with less wind. There are now foils on surfboards as well. The foil consists of a front wing and a smaller rear wing connected by a strut. The strut is attached to a mast, which is attached to where a rear fin would normally be located at the underneath rear of the board.

Think of a foil wing as an airplane wing. As the water rushes over the front and rear foil wing, these foil wings act like an airplane wing and create lift under water. This lift brings the board out of the water and now the rider is levitating while moving forward at various speeds. Normal surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing gives you the feel and sensation of the board on the water and you can feel everything the water’s surface is doing underneath you. Adding the foil makes you feel like a pelican stealthily gliding over the surface of the water. Like floating on clouds.

Steven Wiggs inspires us all as he is one of the older generation watermen and he recently learned to wing foil


There are notoriously windy spots around the world such as Hood River Oregon, Cape Hatteras NC, and Capetown South Africa to name a few. Charleston’s local beaches are known for its mostly user-friendly wind. Wind speeds here usually average 15-20+mph, which is a perfect range for learning to wing. Charleston beaches are also known for less than perfect waves. You will not find Pipeline or Jaws here, but you will find small 1-3 foot surf that is also perfect for wing foiling.

Ryerson says “coastal Charleston is epic for water and wind driven sports like winging, and our community is super friendly and helpful. Conditions are perfect for beginners to intermediate and advanced riders…beautiful beaches, soft sugar sand, flat water shoals, gentle to larger head height rolling swells and the harbor for those more daring. Depending on weather, tides, wind direction, wave height and water and air temperature, there are many beautiful spots to enjoy.”

David Ryerson gliding with the pelicans over the surface of the water


Sealand Adventure Sports' Hyland says "I believe the industry thought that more paddle boarders would convert to wingers but that's simply not the case. More and more kiteboarders are starting to convert to wing surfing. It's like a hybrid between windsurfing and kiteboarding." Force Kite & Wake's Brandon says that although kitesurfing is still immensely popular in the Charleston area, winging is growing rapidly. He estimates their shop is seeing twice the interest they saw last year. Force Kite & Wake's Radev predicts that in a couple of years, you will see just as many wingers on the water as you see kiters.

If you are walking along the beaches and see the wingers out there doing their thing, now you know what it is all about. Perhaps you have the itch to learn the newest and fastest growing water sport. Perhaps you’ve watched our local low country pelicans glide so gracefully over the ocean’s surface and always wanted to know what that felt like. So get out there, visit the local shops, take a lesson, and just “wing it.”

David Ryerson luffing his wing and foiling on a nice ocean swell

Where to locally get winging lessons and purchase gear:

Force Kite and Wake

1405 Ben Sawyer Boulevard, #100

Mount Pleasant, SC

(843) 329-3004

Sealand Adventure Sports

2120 Middle Street

Sullivan’s Island, SC

(843) 330-8156

David Ryerson outside the Isle of Palms pier

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