TELLIN’ STORIES

EditorDecember 26, 2013 

To paraphrase John Lennon slightly, so this (is the day after) Christmas, and what have you done?

Another year over, and a new one just begun – almost.

In all honesty, 2013 felt like much of the same…a widening chasm between left and right political ideologies, TV celebs falling from grace by opening their mouths too wide, more dysfunction in Washington, more effects of the so-called “economic downturn,” and mainstream media’s further decimation of the term, “journalism.”

But here at Surge Headquarters, we tried our best to shake off the malaise and ignore the clatter , including a mid-summer mini-makeover to coincide with our 7-year anniversary – it wasn’t a major overhaul, like going from an A-cup to a double-D, yet more like a nip and a tuck – trimmed a little bit here, added a bit there.

We lost longtime Beerman columnist Colin Burch - well, we didn’t actually lose him, we know where to find him - but he has decided to move on to greener pastures. But in his stead we’ve found the capable and knowledgeable home brewer, John “Jilly” Garner. Also leaving us was Living Green columnist Jennifer Sellers, and in the breaking news department, biker columnist Eric “Big E” Rutherford, of Ridin’ with Big E fame, will soon ride off into the sunset.

We’ve got some more changes in store for you in 2014, but we’ll talk about that later…

Then there was that whole thing about Surge being kicked off Coastal Carolina University’s campus in 2013...but we digress.

Since we do things a little differently here in Surge-land, we’re not doing the standard recap of the year that was 2013. Rather, we’re indulging in a decidedly self-indulgent affair that has become somewhat of a tradition.

While trying to keep things fresh and exciting and still adhering to the mission of bringing you - the reader - stories and perspectives you won’t see in other Myrtle Beach area media, we cast a wide net in 2013, and our cover stories - which requires the heaviest lifting on part of our crafty band of merry contributors - ran the gamut from writer Derrick Bracey subjecting himself to a prostate cancer screening, to scribe Becky Billingsley tracking the development of South Carolina’s record-breaking loggerhead turtle hatchlings, to journalist Paul Grimshaw tagging along on a local deep sea fishing charter to wordsmith Roger Yale going on the vapor trail of a new trend in smoking cessation, to name just a few (seriously, that’s only four stories out of 52).

What was the best read, and most fascinating tale uncovered in Surge’s 2013 cover stories?

Well, just like last year, and the two years prior, it’s up to you, the faithful Surge reader, as we’re relying on you to crown 2013’s Story of the Year.

Here’s what you can do:

Peruse the following synopses of the dozen stories that were chosen by the esteemed editor (me) that are vying for Story of the Year 2013, then mosey on over to this link - http://myrtlebeachonline.upickem.net/engine/Welcome.aspx?contestid=114499 - which will take you to the digital voting platform.

Voting kicks off Thursday (Dec. 26) and runs through Jan. 19, with the winner announced in the Jan. 23 edition of Weekly Surge.

Voting is limited to once per hour per user, but you can vote multiple times for multiple stories.

May the best story win.

Cover story | Myrtle Vice?

How could Myrtle Beach be more dangerous than Chicago, D.C. and Atlanta?

Written by: Andrew Davis

Published: Jan. 24, 2013

If you’re looking at the recent “Top 100 Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S.” report released by NeighborhoodScout.com where Myrtle Beach is ranked No. 21 on the list, it’s easy to believe that a trip here may be like vacationing in a warzone. The report claims Myrtle Beach is more dangerous than much larger cities such as Atlanta (No. 26), Baltimore (No. 27), Washington, D.C. (No. 46), and Chicago (No. 79) – the latter of which hit an alarming 500 murders in 2012.

The astounding ranking leaves Myrtle Beach spokesperson Mark Kruea questioning the results. “This is something that comes up every year,” says Kruea. “It’s a case of people using statistics incorrectly.” Kruea doesn’t dispute the reported number of crimes, just how the city’s per capita number crime rate is calculated. “Those numbers – those statistics – are based on our permanent population,” says Kruea, referring to Myrtle Beach’s permanent population of nearly 28,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “At any point in time between May and September, we may have 250,000 people in town. Literally 10-fold greater (than the year-round population).”

However, Andrew Schiller, CEO of Location, Inc., the location-based data company behind the NeighborhoodScout.com, disagrees. “There are hundreds of cities in the United States that are major tourist destinations,” says Schiller. “And while often times visitors who come to a city can perpetrate crimes or have crimes perpetrated on them – that aren’t counted in the population – we do see a distinct pattern in that many of these cities, which are significant tourist locations, do not come up on our list of 100 most dangerous cities in America.”

Cover story | REALITY CHECK?

Will TLC’s “Myrtle Manor” tarnish the Grand Strand’s carefully scrubbed image?

Written by: Brian M. Howle

Published: Feb. 28, 2013

The great minds of our time have spent countless hours pondering the plight of humankind, the truth of our origins, making best use of the limited resources on our little planet - things like that. So it is only fitting that, in this time of increased media-influenced enlightenment of the masses, one of the more advanced cable-channel-based entities would smile fondly upon our little chunk of paradise along the northern Atlantic coast of South Carolina.

So ready or not, Discovery Channel’s TLC (which used to stand for The Learning Channel) network debuted its newest and buzzworthy offering into the world of reality TV: “Welcome to Myrtle Manor.”

The show is pedal-to-the-metal entertainment television. There are varying opinions on the show as of this writing; the general buzz on social media such as Facebook has been less than enthusiastic or kind, to say the least.

But keep it fair and realize that Facebook, Twitter and all ensuing new media - even some throwbacks who utilize MySpace for more than just music files - are not especially known for places being populated by excessively (or often minimally) informed or intelligent discussions. Since the initial negative blowback was based solely on the initial blurbs or PR and some less-than-flattering video portending that all folk who reside in modular domiciles engineered for transportable residency - mobile homes - well, honestly, you could pretty much feel that tsunami coming much like those first wisps of angry breeze whenever an ominous storm lurks off the ocean’s dark horizon.

The main thrust for those who have shared their personal views on this yet-to-be-aired series is essentially the same, recurring argument that inevitably seems to come up whenever any area of the South is portrayed on TV or by cinema in such a stereotypical, cartoonish manner.

Cover story| A QUEST FOR ROCK

Can Tenacious D’s mock rock conquer the fickle Myrtle Beach market?

Written by: Paul Grimshaw

Published: March 7, 2013

It’s easy for national media and celebrities to pick on Myrtle Beach, and it’s kind of fun to be the recipient of the razzing, if you don’t take yourself too seriously. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, a Charlestonian, has poked fun at us. Danny McBride of “Eastbound & Down” trashed our little town in the show’s 2012 season on HBO, and Honey Boo Boo’s network, TLC, and its mock-reality television program “Welcome to Myrtle Manor” may lead the uninitiated into thinking we’re one giant redneck trailer park with an equally gigantic sand box.

When actor/musician Jack Black of Tenacious D started ranting to Foo Fighter and part-time Tenacious D drummer Dave Grohl on the “Chelsea Lately” television program in late February, it got really personal. Black cited the (at the time) supposed lack of ticket sales for Tenacious D’s show at the House of Blues calling Myrtle Beach “icy cold.” In his faux frustration he declared “Fuck Myrtle Beach!” which got a big laugh, and no doubt ruffled the feathers of a few humorless locals. But it was, of course, all good sardonic fun, and rather self-deprecating on part of the D. Black and 20-year comic partner Kyle Gass were pretending to be upset about not being able to sell-out Myrtle Beach, with no real malice toward its citizenry. Right?

An interview with Black and Gass by radio team Mase and Kinard on Myrtle Beach’s WKZQ-FM on Feb. 18, we think, proves that the Tenacious D partnership is all about comedy, and they assured Myrtle Beach of their respect. “As soon as I saw them on “Chelsea Lately” I was calling their management,” said radio personality Mason “Mase” Brazelle. “They [Tenacious D] handled it really well and seemed to have fun.” Black joked about the appearance and his remarks. “I love Myrtle Beach,” he said. “I want to rock Myrtle Beach – I just wish we’d sold more than 13 tickets.” As of press time the House of Blues reports that sales have indeed exceeded 13.

So Surge interviewed the portly duo to find out firsthand how to rock, and if the D really does love the Durty Myrtle after all.

Cover story | FAKE & BAKE?

Inside the cat-and-mouse game of synthetic marijuana

Written by: Derrick Bracey

Published: April 18, 2013

In the last few years, we’ve seen a rising trend in stories about synthetic drugs or designer drugs. The height of this trend was when a synthetic product sold in head shops known as “bath salts” was linked to allegedly turning people into face-eating zombies. It would appear “bath salts” has run its news cycle and synthetic weed has jumped on the carousel and we’re forced to sit and watch the wheels go round-and-round.

Recently, the roulette wheel came clicking to a stop at Socastee High School when eight students were arrested for two incidents involving smoking synthetic marijuana. Three of the students received medical treatment for adverse reactions to ingesting the substance. They range in ages from 16 to 18, charged with various offenses – four of them picked up a Public Disorderly Conduct charge. One was accused of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor and three were tagged with Disturbing Schools.

S.C.’s D.H.E.C. basically re-enforced the D.E.A.’s reclassification of synthetic marijuana and Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill designed to toughen penalties on dealers, manufacturers and users.

“Unfortunately, the DEA can only ban specific psychoactive chemicals,” explains Bobby Wiggins, Drug Prevention Specialist of Narconon International. “As soon as the banned compounds are no longer found in the product, vendors are right back in business. The problem is manufacturing labs are able to make tiny alterations in the molecular structure of the THC-like derivative compounds used, which allows them to replace banned chemicals with new ones that have similar, but possibly more potent properties that are outside DEA jurisdiction.”

But these products aren’t labeled as drugs and they can’t be detected on a standard drug test. They’re actually labeled as herbal incense. And these chemical compounds can be altered to maneuver around these laws and regulations.

Cover story | FOOD FIGHT!

Myrtle Beach activists march to raise awareness of genetically-altered foods and biotech behemoth Monsanto

Written by: Jennifer Sellers

Published: May 23, 2013

The hot button phrase is GMO – genetically modified or genetically engineered organisms, and by simply mentioning this term you may open the floor to heated debate over food and clothing.

“Just the thought of a Lean Cuisine scares me,” said Clay Nance, an employee at health food market and cafe Bay Naturals in Myrtle Beach. “In fact, anything in the frozen food aisle in a regular mainstream grocery store scares me.”

The issue over GMOs is worldwide and complicated. It involves large corporations, governments, scientists, consumers, and charges of conspiracies. The lion’s share of outrage is directed at one company - Monsanto, an agriculture biotech giant best known for the popular weed killer Roundup, which has a local facility in nearby Hartsville in Darlington County. In addition to Roundup, Monsanto has bioengineered a number of crops that it sells under the “Roundup Ready” name – crops that are not killed by Roundup which allows farmers to spray a field and kill the weeds while not harming the crop.

Hoping to raise awareness about GMOs and put political pressure on the bio-tech behemoth, there’s a global effort dubbed March Against Monsanto, including an affiliated rally right here in Myrtle Beach at Grand Park on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.

That’s right, grassroots activism at the usually lackadaisical beach.

Cover story | POLE POSITION

Is Myrtle Beach’s hottest fitness craze too steamy for the Bible Belt?

Written by: Angela Pilson

Published: July 11, 2013

Fitness crazes come and go. Jazzercise, for one. But the latest workout development has gone vertical — think poles and few clothes.

Pole fitness — not to be confused with stripping — is a workout that promises sensuality, fun, and empowerment. Two businesses, Teazers Pole Fitness and Dance Studios and Wicked Fitness, offer pole fitness classes in the Myrtle Beach area.

Don’t get Teezers confused with Teazers, both located on George Bishop Parkway in Myrtle Beach. One is a strip club, the other a pole fitness and dance studio. What’s the difference? If you show up for a pole fitness class at Teezers Gentlemen’s Club, they might try to offer you a job.

What you will find at Teazers, which is inside the X Gym, are instructors who take your boring workout and give you a sensual routine that leaves you feeling confident.

Why would mimicking a stripper make a woman confident? It’s like role play. It’s a safe and more controlled way to exude sexuality without feeling cheap. They become pole artists, not pole dancers. The focus is on fitness and dance as art instead of dance as entertainment or sexual gratification of an ogling man.

“It’s not like we’re taking our clothes off or anything like that, but it makes you feel sexy when you do it,” says Megan Prevatte, a massage therapist in Myrtle Beach who enjoys relieving stress with pole fitness classes. “It makes you feel better. It’s like pole art.”

Cover story | GETTING THE VAPERS?

Chasing the vapor trail along the Grand Strand

Written by: Roger Yale

Published: July 24, 2013

Many have no-doubt noticed this in recent television commercials and all over the Grand Strand. People are walking around with strange cylindrical contraptions tethered to them by lanyards and others are using what at first glance appear to be cigarettes. But these devices are as far from cigarettes as bananas are from steak.

Welcome to the world of electronic cigarettes and personal vaporizers, which have been steadily gaining steam [or vapor] since their introduction to the U.S. market in 2008. A personal vaporizer, or e-cigarette, is a battery operated device that atomizes a product known as e-liquid or e-juice into a mist. E-liquid contains a base of vegetable glycerin or food grade propylene glycol, is usually flavored and contains various levels of nicotine or no nicotine at all. There is no smoke produced because there is no tobacco involved. It is important to note that these products are not intended to be marketed or recommended as smoking cessation products. Nevertheless, many users claim to have been empowered to lay down the real McCoy in favor of the vape, perhaps improving their health, and lessening the dent on their wallets.

It seems that everywhere you look, somebody is vaping. Weekly Surge talked to local “vapers” and retailers to get a feel for what’s fueling this craze.

Cover story | TURTLE BEACH?

An in-depth look at the South Carolina state reptile’s fight for survival

Written by: Becky Billingsley

Published: Sept. 19, 2013

Chances are only one of the almost 1,000 palm-sized Loggerhead turtle hatchlings that made runs for the sea across Garden City Beach’s shore this summer will survive to adulthood, but recently implemented conservations efforts are increasing the odds.

If one of this year’s hatchlings does return 30 years from now to lay nests, it’s largely thanks to volunteers who are elated that 2013 was a record-breaking nesting year, with 5,099 Loggerhead nests along South Carolina’s coast as of Sept. 10.

Humans know much about the Loggerhead turtle, which has been South Carolina’s state reptile since 1988, but the knowledge is constantly evolving.

By July 24 there were a record-breaking 190 nests in Horry and Georgetown counties, and on Sept. 10 the count was up to 224. If you add in North Island at Winyah Bay, the total was 387 nests.

Cover story | TA-TA TALK

Your guide to Myrtle Beach area breast cancer awareness events

Written by: Rebecca Robertson

Published: Oct. 3, 2013

“Talking boobies..”

This is the Facebook status Marnie Kennedy, 43, of Myrtle Beach posts when we sit down to chat with her about breast cancer awareness events happening along the Grand Strand throughout October, otherwise known as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

These two simple words, amid the traffic of status updates, photos, and recipes clogging the Facebook pipeline, cause us to pause and take a second look, and ultimately, this is her goal.

When Kennedy, a wife, mother, and full-time bartender at Island Bar & Grill in Surfside Beach is not busy working or taking care of her family, she’s very passionate about raising money and awareness for breast cancer.

“Breast cancer is my No. 1 cause,” Kennedy says. “You’re hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been affected by it.”

Her mother, who had to have a double mastectomy, was a breast cancer survivor. And although her mother has since passed away, Kennedy continues to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research in honor of her, as well as all the amazing survivors she has met along the way.

In response to the overwhelming number of local breast cancer awareness events, Surge rounded up as many as we could confirm and presented them in chronological order.

Cover story | BREWS CRUISE

From the Upstate to the Lowcountry, S.C.’s craft beer breweries are booming - here’s a guide to each

Written by: John “Jilly” Garner

Published: Oct. 10, 2013

Regional and national breweries such as Stone, Terrapin, Founders and Bells were interested in bringing their beers to the people of South Carolina. It was a little slow at first, with a few breweries pulling out of the market early on after their sales didn’t meet expectations. But, just like the rest of the country, beer drinkers were catching on – craving more hops, more malt and more flavor. Many of those brewers ended up coming back to South Carolina and unlike many other products, the introduction of new brands didn’t dilute the market – it made people want even more variety. This didn’t go unnoticed by local breweries.

Unfortunately, the legal climate in South Carolina still wasn’t encouraging existing breweries to grow or new ones to open. That too, was about to change, with the help of the group that was formerly “Pop the Cap” – now renamed the South Carolina Brewers Association. A pair of bills was passed into law that made it legal for breweries to sell their beer at the brewery for on-premises and off-premises consumption. Brewery tours began, and samples, pints and growlers started flowing. Beer wasn’t the only thing flowing – now breweries were starting see the cash flow, too.

In 2006, there were only four production breweries in South Carolina, including Myrtle Beach’s New South Brewing Co. In the past 7 years, we’ve seen that number triple. Breweries are opening at a break-neck speed. Existing breweries are operating at or near capacity. Many are in the process of expanding their operations, like COAST, Palmetto and Thomas Creek who are undergoing huge renovations and expansion. New South Brewing has recently added another 60-barrel fermentation tank and a new boiler. Conquest Brewing in Columbia, Benford Brewing in Lancaster and Frothy Beard in North Charleston continue to grow as demand for their beers skyrocket.

It is a great time to be a craft beer drinker in South Carolina.

In response, Surge created a guide to what’s brewing at The Palmetto State’s craft beer production breweries.

Cover story | GROWING PAIN?

Undeterred by critics, Kirk Cameron brings evangelical marriage message to Myrtle Beach

Written by: Christina Knauss

Published: Oct. 24, 2013

Say the name Kirk Cameron and to millions of people of a certain age, the image of a clean-cut kid with a bad ‘80s-style pompadour will pop into their heads.

But Cameron has gone from “Growing Pains” to “Jesus Saves.”

The former teen pinup is now an evangelical Christian, as well as a husband and father of six kids. He spends his time spreading the Gospel through speaking engagements, feature films and documentaries – and deflecting snarky potshots from entertainment writers, bloggers and some of his former colleagues.

He’s also become something of an evangelist for marriage, touring the country with a multi-media program called “Love Worth Fighting For -- The Marriage Event.” The show, which includes music, film clips, humor and one-on-one time for couples to discuss relationships, hit the Grand Strand at Christ United Methodist Church in Myrtle Beach. (The venue itself, interestingly enough, mirrors Cameron’s journey from secular show business to God’s business. It was originally built in the ‘90s as the Gatlin Brothers Theatre and was later known as Crook & Chase Theater.)

More recently, his opinions on marriage and the gay community in general have attracted the ire of commentators, political activists and people in the entertainment industry. In an early 2012 interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, he called homosexuality “unnatural, detrimental and ultimately destructive to the foundation of civilization.” He also has been outspoken about opposing same-sex marriage.

So what exactly makes a former teen star-turned-evangelist tick? We tried to find out.

Cover story | MOPEDS, MO’ PROBLEMS?

Are so-called “liquor cycles” clogging Myrtle Beach traffic and giving DUI offenders a free pass?

Written by: Kevin Hoover

Published: Nov. 14, 2013

The speed limit is 45 miles per hour on Carolina Forest Boulevard. After sunset, the visibility on this particular road is reduced significantly as you might well imagine. In this day and age of everyone being in a rush, there is no need to assume that anyone drives the speed limit - unless there’s a cop parked nearby. However, the law has determined that 45 mph is the best speed to safely navigate this road day or night. Laws are made for our own safety and well being. Right?

If that is true, why is there a law that allows a 14-year-old the privilege of operating a motorized vehicle down Carolina Forest Boulevard that has the maximum speed capability, by law, of 25 mph? Why is a 14-year old allowed to, legally, operate a vehicle on a public road at all, in fact? And why are folks who’ve had their licenses suspended because of DUI allowed to operate the same kind of two-wheeled motorized vehicle on public streets? And why are these modes of transport exempt from South Carolina DUI laws when you can get busted for driving drunk on a lawnmower?

The influx of mopeds into our beach community has some positive attributes, such as providing an economic, environtmentally-friendly alertnative for local college students to zip around campus. Some are great for the local economy as business owners rent the two-wheelers to tourists, and riding one can be down right fun, while the other side of the coin is, these slow-moving motorbikes may put our area’s drivers at risk while on our high-density, high-speed roads. Not only danger for the the moped operators, but for the people driving along side of them.

Should mopeds warrant a bit more scrutiny - and are they really “liquour bikes” as they’ve come to be known along the beach?

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