Finding gold beneath the waves with treasure hunter Jim Brouwer

Jim’s book Gold Beneath the Waves: Treasure Hunting the Surf and Sand changed my life.

I’d decided to switch from land detecting to surf and beach detecting and was in South Africa. I’d been hunting beaches for hours and hours and although I was enjoying the time outdoors, I wasn’t getting anything but sore arms and shoulders. Someone on a forum, I think the Friendly Forum at, mentioned your book, so I ordered it from Amazon and had it shipped down to South Africa the fastest way possible, which still seemed to take forever.

When the book finally did arrive, I tucked into it and immediately realized some things I needed to change about my hunting, and as soon as I did, I started finding gold rings. So my first questions are about the book…

How long did it take you to write Gold Beneath the Waves, and did you self publish or find a publisher?
It took three or four years of dabbling at it, not hard core writing, to put it together. In one respect I feel like I did a better job than if I would have hurried the book into publication.
Writing is hard work!!! It’s easy to write a three star book, but very hard to write a five star book.
I’ve been a writer for many years and was the President of the South Carolina Writers Workshop in Myrtle Beach. One thing that became very evident was that many books never get published because of the “system.”
Self publishing has opened the flood gates to make it possible for almost anyone to become a published writer. I went through “” to publish Gold Beneath the Waves. It was an excellent decision. Yes, there is a lot more to self publishing than just doing the writing. Formatting and editing are two huge hurdles. And of course you will need a book cover. I enjoyed this part. I actually took the picture that is on the front and the back of the book.
One thing that worked in “Gold Beneath the Waves” is that each chapter starts with a story. Also, I tried to keep it light and add some humor. Nonfiction books do not need to be dry as dirt.

Is there something you wanted to add to the book, after it had been printed?
There are a few things that need a bit more clarification. I learned this by the feedback or questions I get asked.
One thing is that I stated I always look for the lowest part of the beach, where some erosion has taken place. This statement makes some hunters feel like they need to be hunting the low tide line. This is not what I meant. If I update the book, which I might, I would clarify this and add one or two sketches to illustrate my point.
Another point that I need to stress is that ocean front beach and surf hunting is extremely dependent on erosion. This past year was an example of just how dependent we are on the power of the wind and waves. We had close to zero erosion all year and my gold numbers reflected that lack of erosion.
Also, ocean front beach and surf detecting is not bay hunting. They are two different animals. There are some great hunters getting great results from hunting the bays, especially old swim areas. This is a different type of hunting. This is maxing out the equipment or using PI detectors to get the super deep targets. How deep? Crazy deep. They are plundering old areas and pulling up loads of old silver coins and old gold class rings.
Another area that needs addressing is the Renourishment of Beaches. The renourishment programs devastate the metal detecting for years and are a total waste of money. I have the proof. A whole book could be written on this subject.
And I would add a chapter on Junk Rings and how it affects your hunting.

Will you ever write another?
I have four or five more books on detecting in the works.
Coquina Gold
The Golden Mile
How to Get Started in Beach Detecting
Find It or Grind It
The Golden Windows of Opportunity

Are you still hunting the areas around Myrtle Beach as described in your book?
All of the principles in the book hold true.
Renourishment and the proliferation of junk rings have modified how I hunt. In 2008 before the renourishment was completed it was common to see holes in the surf. In the last eight years I rarely see a hole in the surf.
The renourishment brought in tons of broken shell with the sand. This was good if you were fossil hunting but horrible if you metal detected. This put another layer of shell over the top of the base layer. And with all the extra sand and shells on the beach I rarely get down to the base layer.
Junk rings are…what a mess!! I am presently finding 15 junk rings to one gold ring. Vince found 30 rings this winter and only one was gold and it was less than one gram. This is very discouraging. Sections of the beach that used to produce gold wedding bands are now awash with tungsten carbide, SS, titanium, and cobalt rings. People paid $300 for these rings. I made a nice display of these rings and tried to sell them at a yard sale for $10 a piece. I did not sell a single ring.
I am sick of finding these junk rings. The only strategy that ups your chances of finding gold rings is to hit the bigger, higher class motels. I loathe hunting new drops!
On the bright side; I know that the gold and old silver is still out there. If we get a decent eroding event the gold and silver still shows up. Last year, 2015, MB started their Outfall Pipe project. This runs a storm drain out into the ocean 1000’ so that the nasty water is away from shore. This makes the water tests look much better. They are trying to hide the evidence. At one point, they dug a trench through the beach and I got seven gold rings and some old silver coins, the oldest coin being an 1890 nickel. The gold is still there!
On the dark side, Myrtle Beach has not had a decent eroding event since May of 2014. That is over two years ago. And my gold numbers are way down. We are too erosion dependent.

Do you treasure hunt full time or do you also have a real job too? How much time do you spend detecting to find so many rings? Do you hunt every day? How many hours are your hunts?
A real job… ewww! Not a real job. I detect full time, usually about 300 days a year and average four hours a day. Some days I hit both low tides. If conditions are poor I shorten my hunting time. I also write. I am very frugal; most people could not survive on what I make.
I don’t detect in the afternoon in the summer because of the crowds and kids. In the summer I hunt early, late, and at night.

I have seen some youtube videos of metal detecting on beaches in the Southern US and in the distance you can see like 8 or 9 guys on the beach and in the water with metal detectors… How competitive is it really down there? What are your feelings towards all the other folks with metal detectors?
5/13/16 I was out hunting this morning for three hours, hit two different spots, and never saw another detectorist.

MB does not have that intense competition for a lot of reasons. It’s tough hunting here. The waves average three feet, which are big waves to be fighting in the surf. If you come to MB when it is sanded in you can easily go a month without a gold ring. Most people will not stick out these long dry periods.

In your book you talk about lots of gold rings still being there to find, runnels full of gold rings; ocean and beach conditions permitting. A kind of abundance mindset. Do you still feel that way?
In the first five days of May in 2013 we had five days of NE wind at over 20 mph. We had massive erosion!!! Dwain Patrick, Phil Alexander, and I found over 60 gold rings in 21 days. And Phil only hunted three times.
In July of that year we had more erosion and I found 34 gold rings.
The gold is there!! And the silver too!! We simply need some wind and waves.

The main question we are all asked: What is your best find ever?
I have four best finds and for different reasons.
The most expensive item was a marquis diamond ring valued at $6000.
Two of my best find items are insanely hard to find. One was a Rolex watch and the other was a 18K gold chain with an 18K bezel with a 1911 five dollar gold piece.
And #4 is a gold ring that I returned. A friend and I were in Charleston, SC when that young white man killed all those black people in that church.
When I got back to MB that day I was out on the beach and a black lady asked if I could help find her daughters gold ring. I hunted hard. I really wanted to give this young lady this ring back. They eventually had to leave and gave me their phone number. I went back and expanded the area. I was even more determined to find this ring. “Come on, I know you’re here.” Half an hour after they left I get a nice tone and I’m looking at the ring. I hurried and called. They couldn’t believe it. They were happy. I was happy. Great day!

Gold Underwater Gold Beneath The Waves Marquis Diamond RingGold Underwater Gold Beneath The Waves Rolex Submarinergold beneath the waves gold coin necklace 1gold beneath the waves gold coin necklace 2Gold Underwater Gold Beneath The Waves Returned Ring

You talk about using Minelab’s Excalibur II and Sovereign. Are you using any new or different gear these days?
These days I use the CTX 3030. I’m very conflicted about this machine. It is a great beach machine, except for the weight (I use a harness with a bungee). It is a very poor surf machine, for a lot of reasons.
I tried to rebuild this machine but after six months I gave up and put it back together the way it was. Minelab made it virtually impossible to improve on this very poor design.
A detector should be a joy to swing. The Minelab Sov was a joy to swing because it could be hipmounted. The CTX 3030 is too heavy. 5.2 lbs is way too heavy. It will never, ever be a joy to swing. I bought the Minelab Pro-Swing 45 Harness ($125) and could never get it adjusted correctly. I sold it and that guy couldn’t get it adjusted either. He sold it. It is probably still being sold. The You Tube video by Minelab shows a guy with the harness and you can clearly see that it pulls on his neck on the left side (1:27).

He couldn’t get it to work either.
The cam locks don’t work. They didn’t work on the Explorer; they don’t work on the CTX.
You can’t see the screen with polarized sunglasses.
The shaft is way too big and feels like pushing a boat anchor through the water. Minelab could have made it oblong or more of a spaceship shape so it would slice through the water.
The battery compartment is notorious for leaking. Sand builds up against the minuscule gasket and then the surge breaches the gasket.
The coil has struts that run at weird angles and are hollow. Water moving across these struts have to cause a tremendous amount of turbulence and drag.
The smartfind module on the coil make this a very heavy coil. That is why the battery is at the back end to give it some balance.
Both Dick Shoemaker and I had the icicle of death appear on the left side of the screen. What’s up with that?
The CTX is very noisy after leaving the saltwater. I believe it is all the water running about on the bottom of the coil.
My CTX falses a lot when I get in hip deep saltwater??
The screen is in the wrong place. In the surf when you shake out your scoop, the scoop and screen are right next to each other. One wave and the screen is toast. This makes it very awkward to pull the gold ring out of the scoop. The screen should be on a wrist watch or in the corner of your glasses.
Oh, one last thing. It cost $2500.
In defense of the CTX 3030 it is a great beach detector. And I love it that you can change the tones…but even this could easily have been made better. I have hearing loss in the upper ranges. I changed the tones so that all good targets are a low tone.
Some of the features I have never used, like the GPS.
The next time Minelab builds a machine the FIRST thing they need to address is the question, “Is it a JOY to swing? Is it Fun?! Do you remember FUN?”

Is there anywhere in the world you would like to metal detect? Some place on your bucket list?
Aruba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Belize, and Ecuador would be a good start.

What do you do with all your finds? Do you keep them? Sell them?
The Grand Strand Treasure Hunters collect coins, mostly corroded pennies, found on the beach and then donate them to a charity. The members have been super at supporting this effort. Two years ago we gave a check to the American Cancer Society for $650. Last year we gave the Vets Café in Myrtle Beach a check for $600. They give meals to Vets in dire need. This year our charity is the Shriners Childrens Hospital and the van program that takes kids and the families to the hospital.
Sinkers I sell on Craigslist for a little less than a dollar a pound.
If a pair of sunglasses is not scratched or damaged I give them to friends and relatives or I wear them myself.
Plain gold rings or wedding bands, gold chains, gold teeth, gold pendants get sent to the refinery. Never, ever sell your gold to a pawn shop!!!
Very nice rings are put on consignment with Treasures Fine Jewelry in Market Commons.
When I finish filling my five gallon bucket with pull tabs I will send them to the Ronald McDonald House. Yes, you read that correctly.
I don’t have a home for all the keys or the 50 caliber bullets and shells or the cars or pot pipes or watches or knives or crosses or cameras. Many of the better examples go on my display shelves.
I sold the Rolex for cash and the Tag Heuer I gave to my brother.
Cell phones, for a number of years, were very lucrative. There were companies that would buy waterlogged I phones for $100. Now, many are locked and it is hard to get $15 for most cell phones. I’ve only found one cell phone that worked. I was sitting in McDonalds, staring at it, when it rang. Scared the bejabbers out of me. I returned it.
I know guys that recycle it all. They even keep the bottle caps and take them along with all the small scrap to the recycling center. Boomyow!! Excellent!!

Any tips for someone just starting out water hunting?
OMGoodness. This is too broad a question. I’ve hunted the surf, lakes, and streams. Even surf hunting could get broken down into two or three books.
Get my book, “Gold Beneath the Waves” on
Join a club if there is one! Learn what other local hunters are using for equipment and their strategies.
Get involved with a couple of treasure hunting forums. You will learn a lot and be amazed at the gold that is found.
Watch a ton of You Tube videos. Warning: Not all videos will help you or give you the information you need for your situation.
Don’t buy a PI for your first detector. As you advance you may want one but a PI will find every piece of trash and iron on your beach. You don’t want to dig 20 bad targets before you get a penny.
To get started you may want to just put your toe in the water; you might be able to rent or borrow a detector. Most detectors will work on the dry sand at the top of the beach.
If you hunt the surf you will need a very good waterproof detector and a sturdy long handled scoop. The detector will run you $1500 and the scoop will run $180, a huge investment.
Now, if you are mentally deranged and hunt the coquina in the surf you will need a waterproof detector, boots, knee pads, Kevlar gloves, weight belt, snorkel and mask and a boat load of patience. Also, you will need a very small coil or if you use a big coil you will need a waterproof pinpointer. The CTX 3030 with the small coil shines in this environment. Half of the targets on the coquina are sinkers. I can program the CTX to eliminate most of the sinkers, which come in above penny. This is my Gold Program.
The guys that hunt calmer, clear waters will use a waterproof detector and either a scoop or they will drop down and fan.
Freshwater hunting is different and you can use a less expensive waterproof detector.
You can go fishing with a cane pole and a can of worms or you can buy a bass boat with a 200 hp motor. Either one can make you happy. Sometimes we get lost in the trap that a better piece of equipment will make us happier.
This morning I hunted the lower beach and the surf for two hours with the CTX 30 30. The beach and surf are very sanded in. I got four targets; one pull tab, one bottle cap, one penny, and one quarter. I know that I would have found more using a Garrett 150 up in the dry sand.

Treasure hunting is a journey of a thousand targets, hundreds of sunrises, pelicans coasting down the wave troughs, the smell of sea air, and days beyond the walls and windows. And one day there will be a signal, a mellow hum, and there in the bottom of the scoop or just visible in the pile of sand will be… the glint of gold.