Love it or hate it: The beach

by Jaime Becktel

Love it

I was one of those mermaid babies who took to the sea with the familiarity of a freshly-whelped otter pup, totally fearless and at home in the waves. I learned to surf when I was 8, and with that came some profound realizations: If I wiped out and struggled, I’d drown. If I relaxed, I’d float and eventually resurface. If my timing was right, and if I trusted a weightless drop into the unknown, I could skim across peeling waves like a smooth stone.

Bobbing within the translucent alcove of a warm summer wavecrest remains to this day one of my favorite places. I can occupy an entire afternoon alternating swimming with napping on the shoreline and I never grow tired of tidepooling, snorkeling, diving and whale watching. It’s all fantasy, sci-fi and magic, from neon Chihuly anemones, Dr. Seuss-like Christmas tree worms, disco comb jellies, cantankerous old man sea turtles, impish sea lions and seals (the dogs of the sea) and my soul mates, the cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises. I once saw a baby dolphin the size of a pillow leap into the air with what looked like a smile and my heart nearly exploded with love. I kayaked perilously far from the shores of Waikiki to be near a family of mist-spouting humpbacks, and I’m fairly certain that if I ever see orcas in the wild, I’ll be forced to sacrifice myself to them as a meaty snack in exchange for just one hug.

– Jaime BecktelHate it

Given the month, I would gladly give 1 million American dollars plus a kidney (not mine) to be at the beach right now. Honestly, I kinda like the beach … for about three minutes. Then I am left wondering what exactly I’m supposed to do for the next eight hours while my friends have the best day of their lives.

Sure I’ve had some of my best moments with said friends at the beach, barbecuing, playing horseshoes, flying kites. But really I just like barbecue, horseshoes, kites and my friends. All the beach adds to these activities is sand everywhere (yes, even there) when you’re done and for the next seven years.

People-watching isn’t bad until the guy doing a phenomenal fur coat impression walks by using what amounts to a washcloth to (not exactly) hide his junk.

Then there’s what’s actually in the ocean, every which thing you do not know exists until you step on it, it bites you, pinches you, brushes against you, stings you or savagely rips your flesh apart with its teeth.

I’ve stepped on crabs, gotten tangled in jellyfish, made eye contact with barracuda and found myself standing in a school of 10 or so stingrays that were placing wagers on my heart attack status. More often, floating seaweed and shells on the ocean floor do such precise impersonations of these nefarious animals that I am in a constant state of terror.

Did I mention there will be sand in your pockets and hair and car for the rest of your life?

Good luck with that, beach-goers.

David Holub


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