In a binary world, a world were the only options were thumbs-up or thumbs-down, I’d have to give beaches a thumbs-down. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about beaches… the beauty, the serenity, the sound of waves gently lapping the shore or crashing on the rocks. The cool waters, and cool sea breeze offer sanctuary from the oppressive heat of summer. There are plenty of reasons that beaches are popular with locals and tourists. However, there’s plenty that I, personally, dislike.
First, a negative without any positives… the sand. I hate to sound like whiny Anakin Skywalker, i.e. “I hate sand. It’s coarse. It’s rough. It’s get’s everywhere.” Personally, I don’t have any issue with the texture of sand… I quite enjoy playing in the sand, but at the beach, in combination with the water etc. it does get everywhere. While Anakin had an issue with the texture of sand, he failed to mention the little matter of the heat that sand retains. Have you ever walked barefoot on the beach in the middle of the day… not the wet sand… that’s okay… not the sand that one needs to traverse to get from car park to water. George Lucas should have had Anakin fall onto this dry, hot beach sand, rather than lava, during the Duel of Mustafar in Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith… it would have been more poetic (with Anakin’s aforementioned hatred of sand) and perhaps more accurate (i.e. who in their right mind duels in a lava field, but a fight on the beach… they’re common in history and film). While the thermal properties of sand can be mitigated by wearing shoes, sand gets into shoes… slowly filling them to the point where they need to be removed to empty the shoes of sand… thereby exposing the bare feet or buttocks to the searing hot sand. “What about thongs (aka flip-flops)?” you may ask. That my friend is yet another reason to hate the beach… footwear that isn’t footwear… the single point-of-failure-footwear, the “flip-flop” sound… the discomfort as the skin between your big toe and its neighbour blisters and then form calluses.
Next, the amount of effort required to visit the beach. For example, sunscreen, which is a significant contributor to the aforementioned sand issue. You can’t go to the beach without applying sunscreen, especially here in Australia where we’re affected by the hole in the ozone layer. Merely spending a handful of minutes in the direct summer sun will result in sunburn, and put you at risk of developing skin cancers. An alternative solution to sunscreen, rashies, may be acceptable for toddlers and little kids but look ridiculous on adults. Or you could just spend your whole time under a beach umbrella… but that makes it very difficult to enjoy one of the major drawcards of the beach, the water. Speaking of umbrella… that is yet another thing that needs to be packed into the car, and lugged down to the beach each and every time you go to the beach… along with towels, esky, changes of clothes, beach toys, and whatever other paraphernalia you’ve bought so you can “enjoy” yourself at the beach.
Then there’s the matter of crowds. Beaches are either overcrowded or remote and desolate. They’re rarely something in-between… definitely true for the beaches near large metropolitan areas, and especially true on the hottest of days when one is most likely going to require the cool waters and breeze. On these days you’re likely to be battling with everyone else from the city and suburbs for a slither of sand to put down your towel… then when you venture down to the water, you try to avoid the syringes and broken glass hiding in the sand, or the dead puffer-fish whose venom can still kill you… then when you make it into the pollution-ridden water you’ll have to keep an eye out for the jet-skiing hoons, seaweeds, stingers/jellyfish, and blue-ringed octopus. “All clear”… you’re in the water… enjoy yourself a little, but make sure you swim between the flags, avoid the rips, battle the undertow etc. Time to get some sun, you head back to your towel, reapply the sunscreen (because it’s probably time to reapply this toxic substance full of nanoparticles), and kick-back and relax to the serene sounds of the sea, assuming you’re able to hear it over the screaming jet-skiers you avoided while you were in the water, the screaming kids nearby, the mother screaming at the screaming kids to be quiet, or the screaming Bluetooth stereo pumping out tunes nobody, other than the speaker’s owner that is, wants to listen to. Oh, the serenity.
If you’re willing to put in a little more time, money, or effort, you might be able to find yourself an isolated, clean, peaceful beach, away from the unwashed masses populating the beaches near the cities. And if you’re lucky enough to have access to a beach house on a quieter beach you can avoid many of the logistical issues of a trip to the beach. But there’s still the sunscreen, and the sand, and sandflies…
On a 5-star rating system, I’d probably give the beach a score of 2.5… a pass. Lots of beaches would get higher… maybe as high as 3.5, or even as high as 4 if we’re scoring in 0.5 increments and rounding, but there are beaches I’ve been to, swimming beaches, that I’d give a zero to (or 0.5 if a zero rating isn’t allowed/recognised as a rating)… but on a binary scoring system, there are just too many negatives to the whole beach experience that would allow me to round that 2.5 up… so… beaches, get a thumbs-down from me.