Folly Beach. 8 Center St. 588-2247

McKevlin’s is keeping Charleston weird — in a good way. The surfing landmark, a Charleston institution, has been in business since owner Tim McKevlin was eight years old. His dad, Dennis, and older brother, Ted, opened the first East Coast surf shop 42 years ago in a storage room at Folly Bowling Center. They sold potato chips and surfboards and moved from one location to another, outgrowing each space every 10 years or so until this Folly Beach store decided to settle down where it sits now.

The late Dennis McKevlin, known to many as Mr. Mac, actually made the surfing lifestyle possible for the Lowcountry. During the early ’70s surfing was seen as a sport for “degenerates.” The Washout was already known as a top break on the east coast, but those not in the know wanted to ban surfing or restrict it to such small areas that surfing legally would be a waste of time. Dennis started going to Folly Beach City Council meetings and became the “surfer’s voice.” His shop was his soapbox. He rallied the troops, and Mr. Mac eventually landed a seat on council. The surfing issue went to federal court in 1976 and the Folly Beach council had to concede defeat.

Surf on. The City of Folly Beach gave Mr. Mac a Citizen of the Year award in 1994.

Harnessing nature with a wooden board, gliding along waves fancy-free, and leaving worries on the sand are why Tim says he surfs. It turns his mind off. He loves the lifestyle.

While McKevlin’s sells popular names, they also stock brands department stores don’t carry. Once a clothing company they patronize gets too big or too popular for exclusivity, McKevlin’s finds a new, unheard-of clothing company and makes a deal.

Tim points out that some surf shops just have surfboards for decoration, but McKevlin’s has a board selection for the gnarliest of dudes. Their “No Pop-Out” is a crusade against factory-made boards not shaped by human hands. As a custom-made board buying shop, McKevlin’s is a for-the-people kind of place that strives to keep from intimidating customers. Tim thinks people who don’t surf are cool, too. He likes everyone, and he sees no reason for being rude.

Tim says he and his loyal staff run a store, not a shop. They serve the people. Call 588-2261. An answering machine they update every few hours will tell you what the surfing conditions are like on Folly Beach, or check out the webcam at Cowabunga, dude.

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