Summer calls us to the shore, but not all beach behavior was created equal. Check out our guide to staying healthy and happy, while also managing to play well with others.
Some say “sunshine is the best medicine,” and as we step into summer, it’s tempting to strip down and jump into the nearest lake, ocean or river. But before you pack up the beach towels and rummage through your cabinets for your favorite sunscreen, it’s important to consider beach etiquette that will help you make the most of your seasonal treks to the shore. If you abide by these simple beach do’s and don’ts, you can stay off anyone’s beach buzzkill list and maximize your fun in the sun.
- Bring a Towel: It might seem so simple, but how many times have you seen people arrive at the beach only to realize they’re missing perhaps the most important accessory? If you plan on both swimming and sunbathing it might be a good idea to bring two. You can use one to claim your spot and the other for drying off. (When dry, it also makes a nice comfy beach pillow). An additional towel can come in handy if you want to cover any parts of your body that might have gotten too much sun or need to protect those sensitive areas from the sun’s rays. Plus, if you’re at a nude beach and need to cover anything up in a hurry for (ahem) unplanned reasons, they can come in quite handy.
- Check the Beach Rules: Different beaches have different codes of conduct. If it’s your first time going to a specific beach, check to see if they have a website with established ground rules. This is especially helpful if you’re looking to bring children or animals. With kids in tow, it’s always advised to choose a beach with a lifeguard on duty. Also, many beaches do not allow dogs, and you don’t want to show up with Fido if he’s going to remain tied up in the parking lot. Didn’t check the website? Look for posted rules or ask your fellow sun worshippers. Important: if you’re going to a nude beach, be sure to identify any locations where you’re required to don a suit or cover your crown jewels with a sarong or towel.
- WATCH FOR WARNINGS: This is extremely important: Often the conditions of the water change from day to day. Be sure to look for and read any special advisories before jumping into the water. You never know if the current may be too strong, if riptides are present, or there might be an abundance of bacteria, algae, red tide, sharks or even a colony of jellyfish in the area. If the signs advise against swimming, pay attention! You can probably still slather on that SPF and lay out, but head to a nearby pool if you’re in serious need of dunking.
- Respect the Personal Space of Others: The shoreline can get crowded, so you might end up close to individuals who aren’t necessarily in or of your party. Be sure to give yourself enough space so you’re not crowding them or interrupting their quiet reading time. Feel free to offer to share in snacks and libation, but avoid crowding or disturbing them.
- Have fun! Let your inner child out, but if everything doesn’t go according to plan, try to roll with it.
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- Litter: A fact sheet from earthday.org points out that over 9.1 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the substance was introduced in the 1950s. Imagine how much of that is now bobbing in the surf, let alone below the waterline. Do all future beachgoers a favor and pick up every single thing you bring with you (including that soda cap you that might have popped off into the sand). If you see someone else’s stray plastic bag, straw or cigarette butt on your walk, pick it up and throw it in a trash can. Be a part of the solution.
- Pack your speaker to blast music: Sure you have great taste in music, but that doesn’t mean everyone in earshot shares it. Bring your headphones or earbuds, and rock out to Lizzo’s latest hit on your towel. Alternately, why not ditch the beats and let the sounds of waves pounding the shore take you away?
- Take Pictures of other sunbathers! Okay, we get it. The guy slathering on his tanning lotion may be built like he’s born for InstaFame, but don’t snap his pic — especially if you didn’t ask. While it’s inevitable there might be a stranger photobombing when you’re snapping shots of you and your friends catching rays, it’s important to respect other people’s privacy. This is especially the case when spending time at your local nude beach. Even if you don’t care if others snap you in your birthday suit, it’s never okay to take nude pictures of without someone’s consent.
- Shake it off: Sand happens. We get it on our towels, hats, shoes, socks, all over (and inside) our bodies. Be mindful when shaking your sand off , especially if it’s windy. You don’t want to have to apologize to the cute otter on the other side of your towel.
- Overdo the PDA: This especially goes for a nude beach. We are, for the most part, all wearing less than usual (if anything) at the beach. While getting intimate in a public setting might be hot at the Folsom Street Fair, it’s likely not the done thing at the shore. Be mindful of your surroundings and avoid any unwarranted attention.
- GLARE at other beachgoers: Yes, we know your eye needs to travel, but seriously: Don’t Be a Creeper!
- Don’t feed the wildlife: Seagulls shouldn’t be eating Cheetos or the remains of your hot dog. Feeding wild animals ultimately leaves them maladjusted. Shy ones may lose a natural fear that helps to protect them. Others that might appear friendly enough may become a nuisance or turn aggressive. And you certainly don’t want tossing your leftovers to the birds to suddenly mean you’re now starring a sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s horror flick of the same name.
- Smoke: Cigarette filters are generally made of cellulose acetate, a plastic that can take well over a decade to break down. While it may seem convenient to get your fix and flick your butt into the water, it’s unkind to ocean life. If you must smoke, keep a respectful distance from other beachgoers, collect any detritus after and place it in the trash.
- Run: Now we know you want to live your Baywatch fantasy but if you don’t have Pamela Anderson’s experience (and really, who does?) we don’t want you to trip, fall, and hurt yourself. Yes, beach running can be an excellent physical activity for an experienced beach runner. So, if you want to work your way up to getting some mileage along the shore, start in small bursts — of say, 10 or 15 minutes. Take your time and make sure you’re planting your feet as firmly as possible. Uneven sand poses quite the stability challenge. Note if your hips or knees start protesting — and give them a break. ■
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Last modified: June 24, 2019