It was a cool Saturday afternoon in the early 1980s when I learned a valuable lesson. My dad and I stood in the water of Folly Beach ocean letting the water do its thing. I slurped the water and blew bubbles with reckless abandon. My dad, decked in shades and a "Boogie Til You Puke" T-shirt, cast his gaze my way.
"Son, what the hell are you doing?"
"Don't do that. People piss in there."
"Matter of fact," he said, "I think I just pissed in there."
My dad was not alone. Perhaps beach-goer Lindsay Stuber says it best: "As long as there is waste and radiation in the water, a little pee in the sea is all right by me."
When asked about this taboo subject, Folly Beach fan Carlin Reindollar says, "I've always done it by just, you know, 'going,' but I just met somebody who walks into the water, whips it out, and then goes because he doesn't want to stain his shorts. But wouldn't it just float back to you anyway?"
Of course, some folks don't think it's OK to pee in the sea. Never ever ever. They may be right. But is it legal?
When local attorney Julia Flumian was asked this question, her response was appropriately complex, "That depends on which statute you are charged with violating. If you are charged under [S.C. Code] 16-15-375, which defines criminal sexual activity, you may have to register as a sex offender because it includes subsection (e) 'excretory function'. But, if you are charged with just indecent exposure under section 16-15-130, you will be charged with a misdemeanor, but you will not necessarily be forced to register as a sex offender."
Uh-oh. Perhaps it's best to make the long hike back to the restroom at the hotel after all.
Legal questions aside, are there any health concerns that surfers, swimmers, and waders should be aware of?
When the subject of health concerns was posed to a local doctor, who asked not to be identified, he replies, "There's so much damn bacteria floating in the ocean that it doesn't really make much of a damn difference if someone does a little damn bladder relief up in there."
A resident of Folly Beach for 30 years, Carol Linville believes that guys, far more than girls, are more apt to go with the flow. "Personally, I don't think we need to add our own acidic nature to the waters, but I understand why people do it," she says. "I just can't do it myself."
In the end, I began to wonder if my father had taught me a bad lesson. That I had learned something I shouldn't have. New father Laughton Gooding disagrees. "If my child has an emergency of the number one variety, I'll gladly give him a nudge toward the ocean if there are no port-a-johns in sight," he says.