Hurricane Joaquin surf video provides some smiles during otherwise tough times

By Lorne Chambers | editor

Early last month when Hurricane Joaquin pushed Costa Rican-sized waves upon Folly’s coastline, there were plenty of bad things that came with it — erosion, flooding, property damage, etc. But if you’re a serious surfer, then it was that one magic moment every year or so when you can catch big waves right in our backyard. It was a rare bright spot in an overwhelmingly gloomy situation.

Local surfer and videographer Andy Lassiter, with the help of photographer Keller James, was able to catch some of Folly Beach’s most talented surfers in action and piece footage together in a highly-entertaining five-minute clip which has gained lots of traction on social media.

Entitled “Don’t Worry, Mom. We’re Fine,” the video captures jaw-dropping ground level, slow motion, and drone footage of the uncharacteristically large waves and a handful of skilled local surfers, like Harlie Stevens and 14-year-old McHenry Jackson, who are featured prominently throughout the video.

As of press time, close to 100,000 people had viewed the video. And although that’s not technically “viral” by most modern online measuring sticks, it’s still pretty impressive and many news and surfing websites had posted the video, including Charleston City Paper, The Inertia, Eastern Surfing Magazine, Swell Info, Corderoy TV, and several others.

It has been both humbling and inspiring for Lassiter, who last year launched Sea Island Media, a creative agency located on Center Street, specializing in web, video, and graphic design promotions. Although the surfing video is light-hearted and quite entertaining, that wasn’t Lassiter’s first thought when he first grabbed his camera and began documenting what was happening outside his window. In fact, he shot two videos just documenting the flooding before he began filming “Don’t Worry, Mom. We’re Fine.”

When the historic rains started dumping on the Charleston area, Lassiter saw plenty of news coverage of downtown being flooded. He watched the devastation in Columbia unfold online. He saw national news outlets descend upon the Lowcountry. However, on Folly Beach things were getting pretty tense and there was little coverage of what was happening out here. Lassiter says he only saw one local news truck, parked at the public boat landing on Center Street. But further down the beach, towards the Washout where he lives, streets and yards were filing up quickly and precious sand was rapidly being ripped from the shoreline. So when Lassiter snapped into action, it was more of a public service than a fun showcase piece for Sea Island Media.

“It was a serious situation. I had friends whose homes were being compromised and jeopardized. So the first videos were more informational,” said Lassiter. “We did those just to document the flooding. I wanted to document what was happening because it was an unprecendented event.”

Those first videos also got lots of traction on the web. But as people’s newsfeeds continued to be filled with photos and videos of the devastation, as dams were breaking in Columbia, as the number of deaths rose to double digits, Lassiter used his creativity and knowledge to create, “Don’t Worry, Mom. We’re Fine,” which is sponsored by the Carolina Film Festival, provided some enjoyment in an otherwise bleak situation.

“I think it was an indicator that some people were trying to make the best of a tough situation,” says Lassiter, who didn’t want the video to take away from the gravity and reality of what was happening around the state.

According to Lassiter, Keller James is responsible for a lot of the footage in the video. “We were really shooting for a quick turnaround, so we pulled some long hours,” says Lassiter. Together, they shot about 700 clips and paired it down to 35 for the video.

“You never know what’s going to happen when you start shooting stuff like that. We had no idea what the waves were going to be like or if we were going to have enough footage for a video.” What they got is maybe some of the coolest surf footage ever recorded on Folly Beach and a video that has provided lots of smiles for locals and others who had become inundated with images the horrors of the storms caused.

As for the name of the video and the comical voiceover, Lassiter says everyone in Charleston got “that call.” He says he was thinking about calling the video “Rain Swell” and making it a little more serious, but decided to provide a little levity to a situation that had grown rather dour. “My mom must have called me five times over the weekend, even though I told her I was fine,” says Lassiter. So the name of the video became “Don’t Worry, Mom. We’re Fine,” with Lassiter himself providing the modified voiceover of the fictional mother leaving a voiceover message at the beginning and end of the video.

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