Whether you are a casual collector who picks up bits and pieces from the sand without bothering to identify them or a serious shell nerd, Laura Rusinko, president of the Grand Strand Shell Club, has valuable advice to offer about finding shells.
“The best time to look for shells is low tide or as the tide is going out,” she says. “This gives seekers a chance to see more shells.”
In addition to serving as president of the local shell club, she also runs the club’s membership, puts out a shell newsletter and books speakers on the topic — needless to say, she knows her shells.
Often serious shellers each like to keep their own little “secret” spots for finding the best shells, but well-known places for beachcombing in Myrtle Beach include the state parks, as well as some of the less crowded beaches like Pawleys Island and Cherry Grove.
The Shell Club often collects trash and glass while combing the beach. There’s the univalve, made up of one shell, and the bivalve, which consists of two shells.
While Rusinko and her fellow club members often rely on each other’s expertise to help them identify tough specimens, an easy way for visitors to classify shells is with a colorful shell book such as “Living Beaches of Georgia and the Carolinas” by Blair and Dawn Witherington.
There are also tons of great online resources for identifying shells such as Seashells.org, ILoveShelling.com or SeaShell-Collector.com and even some great local guides including Myrtle Beach State Park’s Beachcombing Guide and the shelling guide at FunBeaches.com.
Rusinko’s advice is to start by giving the shells a good soak in clean, fresh water to remove excess sand. Particular shells may need special treatment so serious collectors should look up the shell online and see how it should be cleaned.
“Time and patience determine how clean your shell collection will be,” she says. “We always enjoy seeing the crafts people make with their shells,” Rusinko said.