At the northern end of the Isle of Palms, on the edge of the island’s vast backwater estuary, is the rising and ebbing tidal waters of Morgan Creek—a meandering stretch of water with a dual personality. It is home to the IOP Marina and the Morgan Creek Grill—both located where the creek opens up into the Intracoastal Waterway from which visitors and diners are treated to an unparalleled panoramic view of the estuary’s saltwater marshes.
From the marina, paddling northward to a bridge connecting one shoreline to the other, Morgan Creek is a densely lined tract of beautiful villas belonging to the Wild Dunes Resort Complex and a maze of docks and piers crowded with boats of all shapes and sizes, but once you paddle beyond the crustacean covered pillars of the cement bridge and the last villa on the left disappears into the salt grass, you will have slipped into the serene and pristine world along the Pine Island estuary—a place where the surface of the creek’s nutrient rich saltwater bubble with schools of darting fish, marsh crabs scurry about under fallen driftwood deposited along the grassy sand banks, mountains of oyster beds rise above the rising and ebbing tidal waters, and birds of many feathers prowl the banks in search of a their preferred delicacies.
It was 1:00 in the afternoon and the temperature was a humid 97 degrees when I arrived at the marina and Ocean Fitness—the place from which I rented the stand up paddleboard. There was a group of six people waiting to be outfitted with kayaks. I asked if there was going to be any other SUPers. Ocean Fitness said 12 SUPers had come in from the creek just before I arrived. The next group of 12 were scheduled for 6:15 pm—every Wednesday Ocean Fitness offers a “Social Paddle” for $20 and if you bring your own board, it is free. The idea is to meet other people who love to paddle. It is a one hour paddle and afterwards, the group goes to the Morgan Creek Grill across from the rental shack.
With sunglasses, P.F.D., dry bag containing cell phone, and bottle of water secured to the board, I pushed away from the docks. It was low tide. So, the underside of the creek’s high tide water mark was visible. The tall pillars used to secure the many boats were packed with clusters of oyster shells—something you wouldn’t see at high tide. As I floated along the villa lined creek, boat traffic was very light and the docks were eerily deserted—must have been the heat of the day. There was a few individuals working on their boats. A couple of people outfitted in scuba gear were cleaning the bottom of their yachts. And once I passed under the bridge, it was a soul soothing, visually beautiful paddle into the pristine Pine Island estuary along the saltwater marshes of the Isle of Palms. For the two hours I was on the creek, I was the only stand up paddleboarder.
There is only one place to rent stand up paddleboards at the IOP Marina. Shared with Coastal Expeditions, the rental shack is next to the Marina Market on 41st Avenue where the marina boat ramp is located. Ocean Fitness rents the stand up paddleboards and Coastal Expeditions rents the kayaks.
Dedicated watermen and private instructors for many years, brothers Stu and Brian Schuck created Ocean Fitness. It is a rider driven company offering sup lessons, eco tours, rentals, sales, and other lessons such as kite surfing or surfing. Its team of instructors are all around watermen. Its stand up paddleboards are the best on the market. The instructors are knowledgeable, personable and helpful. Although, I paid for the two-hour paddle, the representative on duty told me not to be concerned with returning within the two hours. For the complete story and tours go to Ocean Fitness.
When it comes to a great stand up paddleboard experience, IOP Marina and Ocean Fitness is one of the best places to start. You can choose to either paddle Morgan Creek through Wild Dunes or enter the Intracoastal Waterway. The waters are serene and offers the rewarding opportunity to paddle the secluded and tranquil estuaries along the Isle of Palms—rich with marine and avian wildlife.