Paddleboard off Pawleys Island, South Carolina

“Above, the early morning sun had chased away a hovering grey mist. Gulls and herons careened through the sky, slicing the blue canvas into geometric patterns. One hovered, hesitated, and then plummeted into the sea like a feathery cannon ball.

Below, the ocean stretched endlessly. Deep, teal, and invigorating, it was permeated by beams of early morning sunlight. From


Paddleboarding off Pawleys Island, South Carolina
Paddleboarding off Pawleys Island, South Carolina

my high vantage point, I noticed jellyfish pulsating through the water like eerily translucent softballs. Schools of manta rays darted beneath my board, squadrons of miniature undersea fighter pilots that startled and shook my balance.

The ocean was alive, and so was I. I felt the energy of the waves, the sun, the jellyfish, coursing up through my feet and into my chest.

Paddleboarding off Pawleys Island, South Carolina: a handful of crusty southern surfers, and two college kids from Massachusetts.

A waist-high swell had rolled in last night, and we were hitting it early.

“There’s a wave!” I shouted at Chris, my fellow travel and surf companion. We had surfed breaks around Cape Cod for years, but never on 12-foot boards with a paddle in hand.

Chris began to turn, hustling to align his board with the coming swell. Then, splash! Chris teetered and fell, missing the wave as Blake and Scott simultaneously dropped in further down the line, whooping and hollering. I bent over with laughter, this scene had characterized most of the morning; waves missed in the frenzy of the moment.

As Chris clambered back onto his board, a new wave rose on the horizon. It was small at first, but gaining rapidly in speed and size. My instincts took over, this was the one; I had to go for it. I stood next to a grizzled old surfer, but he smiled and waved, saying, “That’s the wave of the day, no pressure!”

I swung around and dug deep with my paddle. As I picked up speed I felt myself rising as the swell surged beneath me. This was the moment of truth. I took one last long stroke, and felt the wave catch me, pitching me forward with abrupt acceleration. Suddenly I was flying down the face, fighting to maintain balance. The warm southern air raced past my sun burnt face as I watched the shoreline slide by.”

By Peter Sacco, travel writer for