In all the ways that matter, the water is the Lowcountry. Without it, we have no white sandy beaches. We have no meandering tidal creeks that nourish our wildlife. In short, without the water the very soul of the Lowcountry ceases to exist.

To some, our waters are a delicate system that must be saved. To some, they are an idyllic backdrop to a day spent in paradise. To some, the water is the center of their spiritual world, their house of worship.

What does the water mean to you?…


Jim Lisenby

A beach guy with blenders

There is something about the beach that demands a frosty drink. That blessed convergence of 80-proof sweetness and soothingly smooth ice on your tongue, a light breeze tempering the sun’s heat on your face… it’s a multisensory experience that borders on the divine.

For decades, Jim “Pool Bar Jim” Lisenby has been that man behind that experience. His legendary drinks have earned him fame far and wide, with more stories to tell than most of us have had hot meals. We’d say he should write a book, but he already has. Two, in fact. It was his first book that brought him to Hilton Head Island.

Heading up the pool bar at the Myrtle Beach Hilton as a young man, he found himself multitasking – blending drinks while fielding phone calls from all over the country asking for his recipes. “This lady waited through three phone calls before she finally told me, ‘Jim, it’s none of my business but you need to write a book,’” he said. “But I had too many friends up in Myrtle Beach. I was young and single, so it kept coming down to going out and having fun or spending time at the typewriter. The typewriter always lost.”

So he made his way down to the then-sleepy Hilton Head, writing his first recipe book while helping set up the original Turtle Lane Beach Club. “I had two blenders hooked up to a light switch,” he said with a laugh. “And I did $1,800 a day on those two blenders, back when drinks were $2-3.”

Following stints as a nightclub owner (“Never again,” he said), he landed at Hilton Head Marriot Resort & Spa where his legend grew over 22 years on the beach at Pool Bar Jim’s. Such was his fame that when he amicably parted ways with the Marriott, it was front-page news. For a guy who had defined summer for thousands, maybe millions, of islanders and visitors, it was an opportunity for a well-deserved break.

“I took eight months off,” he said. “I mean, I hadn’t had a summer off in 22 years.”

And after his sabbatical, he found a new home at The Seacrest, on a beautifully renovated patio expanse that stretches along the pristine dunes of South Forest Beach. “Some of the opportunities I had when I left Marriott weren’t on the beach and I had to think long and hard about that,” he said. “I finally just said, ‘Nah, I’m a beach guy.’”

Possibly the consummate beach guy. For generations, his drinks have defined the beach experience. It’s perhaps a little ironic then, that Pool Bar Jim hardly ever gets to see the beach. “I hardly ever get to go down there… During the daytime we’re so busy,” he said. “But I do get a chance to appreciate it at sunset.”

We’ll just have to take a seat at Pool Bar Jim’s and enjoy the beach on his behalf.


Story: Barry Kaufman
Photography: Lisa Staff
Featured Magazine: Local Life