Earl impacts water sport businesses

By Jennifer Grove - bio | email

MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - While most water sport businesses planned to be back on the open waters Friday, Earl sent enough rough waters to the Palmetto State's coast Thursday to force many businesses to dock their boats.

Express Watersports in Murrells Inlet was one of the places feeling the effects of Earl as it barreled north in the Atlantic.

"It's really slow," Tony Garner said. "We're getting plans ready for the rest of the weekend. Maybe we can save Sunday and Monday."

Garner says the customers that do come in when a storm is off the coast often fall into two categories: the unaware and the unconcerned.

"We get that all the time," Garner said. "They don't realize. We are Coastguard certified so we're not going to do anything that's not safe. But they want to."

Businesses along Murrells Inlet do have the advantage of being able to continue jet ski rentals and banana boat rides without having to go out into the open Atlantic.

"Being right off the beach area, if the ocean is too rough, it stops them," said Bryan Jones with Express Watersports. "For me on the other hand, I run out of the inlet here. We're not in the ocean, so I can keep going."

As a result, the parasailing and banana boats stayed docked Thursday, just like they did up the Marsh Walk at Captain Dicks for deep sea fishing.

"Usually when you get further off shore the swells get bigger," Captain Jeb Burroughs explained. "It gets a little deeper in the rougher water so that's a concern."

Even the currents at the water's edge, however, can be enough to put business at a halt.

"The surf is our biggest issue," said Jon Parks, Manager of Shoreline Watersports in Surfside Beach. "Even though once you get out past the surf it might be OK to go on the banana boats, we just can't get people through the surf. It's just not safe."

Unfortunately, Mother Nature is now an expected guest on Labor Day.

"It always happens this time of year," Garner said. "Always [on] Labor Day something goes wrong with the storms."

"I'm just ready for it to get past this so we can get back to business," Parks emphasized. "We only have a short season. We have to make all our money in the summer so winters are tough down here. Everybody is a seasonal business so try to do what we can."

Burroughs says he hopes people forced to cancel their North Carolina vacations will consider rebooking their holiday plans along the Grand Strand, as businesses in area hope to cash in on their last big weekend of the season.

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