The Coast News Group
Beach chairs and umbrella on beach
Just pulling up a chair at the beach can be a great adventure. Stock photo
Columns Waterspot

A day at the beach

The beach has remained pretty much the same since the first day I crawled on its sand as a child.

I don’t remember those days, but I have photographic proof of me and my mother as she watched me inch across a blanket, probably wondering what that vast and noisy body of water was and why my dad was joyfully playing in it.

My earliest memories of leaving the sand for the water was of my dad carrying me out to the breakers, perched upon his wide, powerful shoulders.

Everything in view was beautiful, and intriguing yet terrifying, and the only thing I wanted more than being out there was being safe on shore. I hate to admit it, but I cried and begged my father to return me to land, something he reluctantly did.

My dad could never understand my fear of the ocean. He had been a great swimmer, once jumping overboard from the destroyer escort he was stationed on during WWII to save seven men after their vessel had been torpedoed.

During Prohibition, he and some friends would jump from Santa Monica Pier, then swim three miles out to the party boats stationed offshore. There, they slammed a drink, jumped back off the boat and swam back to the city using the city lights as a guide, since it was dark.

While I never completely conquered my fear of the ocean, especially in big surf, I did get comfortable enough to paddle out in most California conditions and swim in when I lost my board in pre-leash times. Comfortable enough to swim out to the kelp with a spear, in the hopes of landing a big fish.

Over time, the beach has become more and less than it was to me in my teens.

More, because I find more things to do there than ride waves. Take a walk in the wet sand, collect rocks and sea glass, bodysurf, bodyboard, take photos, cast a line — it all works for me now.

The beach is less to me now because I am no longer addicted to risking everything for the best waves I can find.

Ever get that feeling that you’re missing something? What if I have the wrong board, or the waves are better a mile or two up the coast? 

Actually, I know I’m missing something — I’m missing the point.

That gets driven home around this time each year when tourists begin hitting town, pulling up a beach towel and an umbrella and simply sitting there, observing the wonders many of us now take for granted.

It is then I can become renewed by the shouting of a child catching a first whitewater on a bodyboard, a kid finding a shell, a family cheering the sunset and other sights we have all become too familiar with.

We should never get used to seeing a dolphin catch a wave and surf it to shore. This alone should be enough to make me feel grateful.

When it’s not, I must examine my world, compare it to others and ask, “Why me?”

Why was I born with all my limbs intact in a country that offers anyone the freedom to simply sit at the beach amid the sights, sounds and smells of our glorious ocean?

Why have I lived within a short drive or a walk from such a magic kingdom. How can I get back there armed with nothing but a colorful umbrella? And maybe a surfboard, just in case.

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