In May of 1979, I was a fledgling college student with an idea of opening a windsurfing school.
On a whim, a truck loaded six windsurfers and equal parts of excitement and anxiety into my car as we ventured into unknown territory. I had never traveled south of Washington, D.C., and by the time I hit Coosawhatchie, it was pitch black, without a single light between I-95 and the open drawbridge from Bluffton onto Hilton Head Island.
The following week, I booked my first customer, taking him to the Shipyard Beach Club to introduce him to the sport of windsurfing. He had a horrible time: he cut his knees, got stung by a jellyfish and requested a full refund. I was devastated, but went back to the drawing board, did some research and found out that the #1 key to success for a windsurfing school was location. This meant somewhere with flat, safe water and consistent winds. My hunt was on.
Eventually, someone recommended that if I wanted great advice about opening a business on Hilton Head, I should speak with Charles Fraser.
After a few weeks, I was able to secure a 10-minute appointment with Mr. Fraser. Ten minutes turned into seven hours. He took me all over Sea Pines Plantation, to lunch, to the marsh and for a sail on his boat, The Compass Rose. At the end of the day, he gave me great advice. It has guided my experiences, my business and my life in the Lowcountry ever since.
“If you wish to be successful with your goals,” Mr. Fraser told me, “you must understand that everything in the Lowcountry revolves around one thing – the tides. All of our history, culture, nature and literature revolves and evolves around the tides. If you truly understand this, and if you can connect people to the tides and to the phenomena of this place where man discovers the shore, you will be successful.”
Now, almost 40 years later, I look back on those words. I reflect on how appropriate they are to being a local.
Tides have influenced how people have lived in our area for centuries. Native Americans traveled in dugout canoes as they hunted and gathered. European settlers took advantage of the large tidal sounds to navigate their galleons. Planters and farmers leveraged the tides with rice dikes, cotton and indigo fields. Gullah people made a living harvesting our bounty of seafood.
If you want to truly appreciate the Lowcountry, experience the tides.
Get out on the water, feel the pluff mud and relish the sea breeze. It is truly magical.
By Mike Overton, Outside Hilton Head
For more than 30 years, Outside Hilton Head has provided personalized adventures for all ages, from kayak, fishing, nature and dolphin tours to kids’ camps, history excursions, family outings and standup paddleboarding. To book an outing with Outside Hilton Head, call (843) 686-6996 or outsidehiltonhead.com.