At Going to the Beach

This is it: the best part of my hometown. Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor.

I grew up in a tiny town on the Gulf coast of Florida. It’s not on many maps and unless you grew up there too, you’ve probably never heard of it. However, the one claim to “fame” that my hometown has is well worth living 20 minutes away from everything: we have some really excellent shorelines. Sugar-white sand, clear water, relative quiet compared to Panama City and Pensacola—we’ve got it all.

When I’m home and I have a free day, going to the beach is my favorite thing to do, mostly because it’s the only thing to do. I show up with a stack of magazines, a water bottle and some tunes and spend a few hours trying to go from paper-white to off-white. If I get hot, I take a dip; if I get hungry, I walk up the boardwalk stairs and get a grouper sandwich. My beach chair and towel sometimes don’t leave the back seat of my car for months at a time.

Maybe you’re not as in love with the beach as I am. Maybe all your seaside memories involve sand in your suit, awkward body image feelings and creative, disgusting cures for jellyfish stings—not to mention sunburn. That’s okay. Beaching is a skill that has to be learned; I just got most of my waterfront horror stories out of the way early. In honor of the beginning of June, here are some ways to make sure your future coastal sojourns don’t suck.

What is not sucking? Not sucking is defined in the realm of beach-going as preparing adequately for a pleasant time somewhere with sand and water, in such a way that a trip to the hospital (or even the pharmacy) is not necessary later.

  1. Dress right. Choose a bathing suit that makes you look and feel hot. If you feel self-conscious in it, it belongs on the rack, not on your body. While you’re out shopping, get some sunglasses. You don’t need expensive ones—just make sure they offer UVA/UVB protection. In the same vein, get yourself some sandals that are substantial enough to keep the asphalt in the parking lot from burning your feet, but not expensive enough that you’ll care if the sand tears them up.
  2. Ditch all your screens but one. You know you need SPF all the time, and that it’s especially important on the beach. However, sunscreen should be the only screen you bring to the seashore; your phone, your tablet, and your laptop will be waiting for you at home when you get back.
  3. Bring two towels. One to sit on, one to dry off with. This minimizes your chances of driving home with sand in uncomfortable places. I learn things the hard way so you don’t have to.
  4. Read trash… or at least fluff. Airports and the beach are the only two places in the entire world where you can indulge in intellectual cotton candy and nobody will judge you for it. A trip to the beach is not the time to introduce yourself to Tolstoy or Voltaire. Buy OK! or People or GQ or a novel by Emily Giffin or James Patterson. And if you get bored while you’re reading, just…
  5. They're funny little guys. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

    They’re funny little guys. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

    Watch. Have you ever really looked at a sandpiper? They run right up to the edge of the water to snack on whatever it is they eat, and then the moment a wave comes up they run away like they weren’t expecting to get wet. And, hey, what about pelicans? Do you know there are people who go their entire lives without ever seeing a pelican?

Oh, and I guess sometimes there are hot people in bathing suits. Where I live, it’s mostly old           folks with metal detectors, but there you go.

  1. Hydrate. Drink water, avoid hospital. It’s that simple.

Enjoy your summer, everybody. If you want to post beach pictures, you’re welcome to do so on Facebook or Twitter.