Most people can be categorized as beach people or mountain people. Sure, there are other categories, but let’s face it, those are the big 2.
I am, without a doubt, a beach person. The beach is my favorite place. The hot sun, silky sand and cool water are transcendent. Most of my fondest memories involve a beach of some sort. Living in DFW, I don’t have the luxury of visiting a beach all that often, so when I do, its extra special.
When I was young, my family’s yearly vacation was to Padre Island, TX. Most people that have been to Florida, California or the Caribbean know as far as beaches go, it’s not a very impressive one. There is often tar on the sand and the water is murky, but to my six year old eyes and mind, it was magical. Much has been done to improve it in recent years so don’t hold back if you are thinking of visiting. To this day, I have no reservations of swimming the Gulf of Mexico.
When I was around 10, my Dad won an award at work and we got to spend a week at the Hotel Del Coronado in southern California. I can still remember walking out and seeing what looked like endless white sand. For the first time, I saw what a beach could be. It was breathtaking. I don’t remember much about that trip, but I will always remember that.
At around 16, something happened that forever solidified my love of the beach. My family and I went to the US Virgin Islands. The island of St John is pure paradise. The lush rainforest, winding with cliff side roads seemed like another planet to me. We would spend our days finding a secluded cove and snorkel the beautiful coral reefs for hours on end. From free diving for starfish to chasing sea turtles, to coming nose to nose with a 6 foot barracuda, it was all magical. The reef, covered with everything from purple fan coral to red antler coral was the perfect backdrop to the countless blue tang, angel fish and a multitude of other varieties. The most memorable though was to see something shimmering in the distance, only to be overtaken by 10 of thousands of schooling sardines. I was completely surrounded. They moved when I moved. It was like one giant being with me in the center. Absolutely incredible. Sadly, the magnitude of the USVI experience was somewhat lost to adolescent me. I didn’t realize what a luxury I was experiencing.
My first beach adventure as an “adult” was spring break in South Padre in 1996. You know how they portray the beach in any standard Spring Break movie? It was EXACTLY like that. Fraternity flag with kegs at their base as far as you could see. Beach balls, beer bongs and bikinis. Truthfully, this didn’t really grow my love of the beach, but it is a good story so there you go.
This is where my beach drought starts. I did manage to make it to the glorious sandy saltwater a few times in my 20s, but I never really got to enjoy it.
In my early 30s, I was fortunate to have some dear friends of mine, Tom and Desiree, move to the Wilmington area of North Carolina. I try to take a yearly pilgrimage to see them and it is something I most look forward to.
We have had some fun adventures. One of my favorite memories is one I know they see a little different. The weather forecast wasn’t looking great, but we decided to risk it and take the boat out in the Intracoastal Waterway. Being that it was late summer, they were prone to pop up thunderstorms and one quickly found us. It was a torrential, driving rain and there was lightning all around us. No cover for miles so we had to ride it out. I could see the nerves on their face, but I loved it! For whatever reason, I just knew we would be fine. We were cold and soaked, but it sure was fun!
I can tell you the exact instance I realized the curative effect a good beach has on me. About 5 years ago, I had somewhat of a personal, mental crisis and needed to get away to clear my head. I called Tom to see if they could have me for a few days. Ever the friend he is, he was happy to have me and I was on a plane the next week. On this trip, I had to fly into Raleigh, which is about 3 hours from Wilmington. I landed, picked up my rental and drove straight to Surf City. Just the smell of the salt air as I was getting close started putting me at ease. Once I crossed the bridge to the island, I could feel the weight lifting. I parked at the beach access by the pier, put on my flip-flops and grabbed a book of Kurt Vonnegut shorts. I proceeded to start the short walk over the dunes.
The breeze was whistling, the sun was shining and the waves were crashing. I bounded the stairs and once at the top, I saw it. The beach, my nirvana. I walked down to the surf and let the waves kiss my travel weary feet and I knew I would be ok. After an hour or so I walked over to Buddy’s Crab house and had a few beers all the while watching the waves lap the sand and the gulls hover in the breeze. It was a good day.
So there you go. My favorite place. I hope you enjoyed my stroll down memory lane. I encourage you to do the same. It can be very therapeutic. If you would like, please comment and let us know your favorite place. Even if you are a mountain person, I won’t judge you. I would love to read your story.