Jul 30 2019

Making Waves

By Mimi Wood for Island Eye News 

Then and now…Laura Cunningham appears as a child on the new Tidalwave van, which recently shuttled the East Tennessee State graduate to the marina. She and her family vacation in IOP every summer, enjoying a Tidalwave excursion with each visit!

Those Tidalwave boys are at it again. Beyond Residents Day, held bi-annually spring and fall; beyond employing (and educating) many young island residents; beyond helping random, stranded strangers with #boatproblems at the Marina launch, they’ve now started a shuttle service, intended to provide a bit of relief with island traffic and parking woes.

 “Isle of Palms has a bit of an identity crisis,” opines Michael Fiem, who owns Tidalwave Water Sports, along with his twin Mark, and Michael Malley. “We are a small island, where residents want to maintain a certain style and manner of living. Yet, the revenue generated by tourism benefits residents; the Accommodations Tax, for instance. And when people vacation, they want water-based activities, beyond sitting on the beach. 

The key is to attain a delicate balance of responsible, successful businesses and unaffected neighborhoods.”

The idea for a shuttle arose after seeing a similar model implemented in Key West. “We try to learn from our peers in similar locations, with similar problems. We saw how Key West has even less space than we do, and how they were employing a combination of vans, bikes and scooters to alleviate traffic congestion.” Beginning this season, with a sparkling new 15-passenger van, Tidalwave began offering door-to-door shuttle service to their customers.

“It’s a win-win-win. Our customers aren’t lost and frustrated, looking for a place to park; they’re on time, which keeps our reservations running smoothly, and it’s less traffic and congestion for the residents.” Fiem estimates they ferry 40 to 50 passengers every day.

Beyond its customers, on Jul. 14 Tidalwave expanded their free shuttle to include IOP residents. Currently offered between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., the door-to-door service is available to residents who’d like to go to the Marina, not just Tidalwave. “I’ve always embraced the idea of public transportation,” states Fiem, “and one thing we learned this past year, in attending City Council and committee meetings, is that residents want easier access to the Marina.” Fiem reiterates that the free resident shuttle is to the entirety of the Marina, “Residents do not have to be patronizing Tidalwave. The island will be a better place if we can control traffic a bit, by offering some semblance of public transportation.” If successful, Fiem does not dismiss the possibility of expanding the service to Mt. Pleasant in the future.

 “We purposefully chose Isle of Palms to establish our business,” explains Fiem. “We had a thriving operation in Myrtle Beach, in 2009,” he continues, “and we hated it. It was a ‘turnstile; a carnival ride.’ We wanted to be in a community where we could be a part of the community. We have that here. We have customers who have been coming to us every summer for nearly a decade. We know many residents by name, ‘joking,’ they send their visiting family and friends to us, to get them out of their hair for a couple hours. We have relationships.”

To make use of the free resident shuttle to the Marina, contact Tidalwave Water Sports at 843.886.8456.

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