When did people start bringing their living rooms to the beach?

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comJuly 10, 2013 

07-20 CAMPING ILLUS illus.jpg

When did the beach become a fancy refugee camp?

KRT

They come to the beach each weekend in droves, dragging umbrellas. And tents. And trash can-sized rolling carts -- full of towels and coolers -- to which beach chairs have been dutifully strapped.

Apparently, a trip to the beach nowadays requires roughly the same amount of gear as an attempt to reach the summit of Denali.

Having spent more time than usual at our local beaches -- part of a resolution I made months ago to take fuller advantage of our most prized natural resource -- it has been the sheer amount of junk my fellow beachgoers lug to the seashore that has most captured my notice.

I, myself, am more of a minimalist. All I need is some water, a chair, a towel and a messenger bag containing sunscreen, my iPod and some reading materials, the latter of which are rarely used because I'm too busy either napping in the sun or noticing the colorful tableau of humanity unfolding before me.

But not everyone shares my no-frills approach to sitting in some sand beside a great expanse of water across which sits Morocco (thanks, Google).

In fact, it seems that I am in the overwhelming minority here, more beachgoers than ever seem willing to move the contents of their living room from their homes to the beaches on Hilton Head Island, only to pack it all up at the first sight of rain or a thunderstorm.

I can certainly understand wanting to have certain creature comforts like a chair to sit in or a towel with which to dry off with after a dip in the ocean but I draw the line at having to use a mallet to hammer the stakes of a tent into the sand before enjoying a relaxing day at the beach.

In fact, I will know my life has taken a sudden and ridiculous turn when my beach kit includes a toolbox, and I'm voluntarily setting up a temporary encampment on the beach.

It's a different story were I stranded on a tropical island and needed to shield myself from the sun but there's a Carrabba's Italian Grill down the street so I think we can take it easy with the survival gear.

Not to mention, the same people who, to varying degrees of success, erect their tents and umbrellas -- I recently saw a gust of wind launch an unsecured umbrella into a woman's face -- are the same folks who scramble to disassemble their beachside rumpus room at the first sight of a dark cloud.

This Wicked Witch of the East-like aversion to rain is silly for a few reasons, not the first of which is you are never better equipped to handle getting wet than while at the beach.

For starters, you're already wearing a bathing suit, an article of clothing sought after because of its water-resistant properties.

I've never seen anyone strutting down the boardwalk at Driessen Beach Park in a suede tuxedo.

Secondly, you possess an umbrella and/or a tent, two structures designed specifically to protect human beings from the elements, rain most especially.

Did someone feel a sprinkle? Yeah, you better hastily take down that giant canopy you and your Ruffles-eating brood have been sitting under for the past five rain-free hours.

Before dermatologists and their ilk get up in arms, I don't begrudge anyone the right to protect his or her skin from harmful and potentially cancer-causing ultraviolet rays, but it sure would be nice to see our beaches look a little more like the beaches I remember from my youth and a little less like the world's nicest refugee camp.

This week, in honor of a stress- and clutter-free beach, eight songs about taking it easy and enjoying the good things in life. Like a day at the beach.

Also, what is up with Metal Detector Guy? Is the off-chance of finding one earring and $2.06 in loose change worth looking like someone straight out of Radio Shack catalogue circa 1985?

  • Frankie Goes to Hollywood, "Relax" -- Frankie Says Relax ... when thinking about bringing your chaise lounge to the beach. In other words, don't.

  • Surfer Blood, "Take It Easy" -- What going to the beach is supposed to be about. Not strapping everything you own to your back and the backs of your children.

  • STRFKR, "Beach Monster" -- We've all seen a few of these. Physically and/or behaviorally monstrous and inconsiderate. Yes, by all means, turn on your radio. I've been wondering what the new Rascal Flatts single sounds like.

  • Wavves, "King of the Beach" -- To me, this is the person who can bring the least amount of stuff and still have the most fun.

  • Jimi Hendrix, "Castles Made of Sand" -- Are a simple shovel and pail a thing of the past?

  • The Kooks, "Seaside" -- Have never been wild about Luke Pritchard's vocal, but this is a gorgeous little song.

  • Kings of Leon, "Beach Side" -- A place, apparently, confused by some with a furniture store showroom.

  • The Hold Steady, "Chill Out Tent" -- Is it starting to rain? Chill out. You've got a tent.

  • Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/IPBG_Patrick.

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