Folly Beach is the estranged, hip, rule-breaking older brother of Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms. You don't go there to show off your new designer beach gear, or make an appearance at a social function—you go to Folly to drink beer, eat fish tacos, and chill out in the Bert's Market parking lot.
Most importantly though, you go to surf. Sure, no one is "getting tubed" or busting aerials all over the place (unless the man upstairs sends a hurricane our way), but they are cruising on little 2 footers and loving every minute of it, especially when it's glassy.
Folly catches a lot of flack from out of town for establishing a surfing community where the waves are undesirable a lot of the time. But those people have either never been to Folly, or must have eaten a few too many oysters there and paid the price.
Folly is one of the most unique beaches you can go to—a strip of land graced by beautifully small waves, kind people, and Lowcountry island vibes. And one man is capturing all of that in its rawest form.
We had the chance to talk with this man, professional photographer Justin Morris, who operates under the name "Follyhood", to get his take on Folly Beach, and what it's like capturing the best surf photos in Charleston.
Tell us a little about your background. Where are you from? What brought you to Charleston?
I was born in Atlanta and raised in the Tampa Bay area. I came up to the Carolinas for college, spending one year in the mountains of North Carolina before transferring to the College of Charleston and getting back to the beach. I came to Charleston in 2004 and have been here since (apart from) a brief stint living and traveling through Central America after graduating college.
How did you get into photography? Did you always know you wanted to shoot surf?
I'm not exactly sure how I got into photography. I am not someone who grew up with a camera in my hand knowing that's what I wanted to do as a little kid. I eventually started messing around with a little point and shoot and really enjoyed documenting my trips to South America, Europe, and Central America. These weren't necessarily all surf trips but it definitely helped spark a love for taking photos.
I got into shooting surf when I worked with a buddy of mine at a hotel who was already shooting surf around Folly. I got my first DSLR camera and started picking his brain every night at work and shooting surf whenever I had the chance. My style and eye has changed a lot since then, but most of my photography still revolves around surfing and the ocean. Living on Folly has also been huge for me because I can see what the waves and weather are doing and be in out the water in minutes.
How would you describe Folly Beach and its surfing community to someone who's never been there before?
Folly Beach and the Charleston area has a nice surf community that I'm sure a lot of people don't really know exists. We may not get the waves that Florida or the Outer Banks get, but we do get plenty of days to surf throughout the year with lots of dedicated surfers enjoying them. As long as you are open to riding different types of boards you can spend a lot of time in the water surfing on Folly. There is a wide range of surfers here on Folly Beach. Guys, girls, longboarders, shortboarders, SUPs, and everything in between. Everyone is pretty much accepted with proper surf etiquette and respect for others around you.
Describe a typical day of shooting—what differentiates good days from bad days?
There is no such thing as a typical day of shooting on Folly because so many factors play into us having waves and surfing at the best time possible. It also differentiates depending on what I'm trying to shoot. There are plenty of days where it's not good waves for surfing but it's great conditions for me to shoot empty waves in.
Light is probably the most important factor for me so it's definitely better to shoot at the beginning and end of each day. Sunsets in the fall and winter are probably my favorite time to shoot in the water. It's great light and it's at a favorable angle for our beach direction. Bad days are shooting in the water with a ton of current or shooting in heavy fog or flat light. Its really all about taking all of the elements—waves, wind, light—and using my best judgement to create the best photo possible in those conditions.
I'm sure shooting surf takes you all over the world. If so where have you been? Why do you choose to call Folly Home?
I have had a great year this past year traveling around with my camera. I'm not quite to the point where I'm getting paid to travel but I am getting help from guys I travel with so that I can afford these trips. I have been everywhere from the Outer Banks all the way down to South Florida. I just got back from a two week trip down to Costa Rica and also traveled down to Peru for two weeks this past winter.
I love documenting these trips in and out of the water and have always loved traveling. I enjoy being out of my element and put into different situations. I think it helps you grow as a person and see the bigger picture. I choose to call Folly home because I love the Charleston area and Folly especially. Folly is just such a unique place that is hard to describe, but I am always happy to come back here. I've thought about moving to a few different places in the US with better waves or better weather, but somehow Folly always wins.