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Headed to the beach? Don't forget to play by the 'rules'

    While you're upgrading your beach gear, it might be time to do the same with your manners.

Like any public place, the beach requires a certain level of decorum. The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office patrols the beaches, enforcing such regulations as the prohibition of alcoholic beverages, glass containers and littering.

But there's another set of rules you won't find posted anywhere. Savvy, sympathetic beachgoers know the score -- make sure you do, too. Here are a few unwritten rules of the beach:

Feeding the birds

Feeding ducks at a pond? Cute. Feeding birds at the beach? You're dancing with the devil. The many seagulls and terns skittering and hovering around do emit a certain rascally charm. But, please, keep those leftover sandwich crusts to yourselves. The second you send a few cracker crumbs airborne, the ensuing feathered frenzy will be nothing short of Hitchcock-iaN.

Bathing suits

Let's get this straight: Beaufort County is notneiro. The beaches here are family friendly -- not clothing optional. Whether you're fit or fat, man or woman, be smart about your swimwear. No parent wants to have to explain to his child why it looks like that guy bronzing his buns has such a bad wedgie.

Towel sand

Perhaps the most satisfying way to remove the sand from your beach towel is to grab a corner in each hand and give it a good, sharp snap. It's also a good way to temporarily blind the family five feet downwind from you with a mini sandstorm. Make sure you give yourself a wide radius before you start pretending you're the matador of Coligny BeacH.

Smoking

The beach is a great place to relax. And for some folks, there's no better relaxation than having a good smoke. If you can't resist the urge to light up, be discreet about it. Shuffle away from the frolicking masses and toward somewhere more solitary, preferably near a garbage can. That way, when you've satisfied your jones, you can flick your butts in the trash and not in the sand.

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