RULES ARE RULES. THERE ARE THE ACKNOWLEDGE FORMAL ONES LIKE OBEYING THE LIFEGUARD’S WHISTLE AND SWIMMING BETWEEN THE BEACONS FOR SAFETY, BUT THERE ARE A HEAP OF UNWRITTEN ONES TOO. FIONA MCDONALD REVIEWS THE SOCIAL COMPACT THAT A DAY AT THE BEACH ENTAILS.
In the early days of television in South Africa, when flighting commercials was seen as something of a novelty and people used to actually watch them rather than pop to the loo or make a cup of tea, there was one for peanut butter.
Picture the scene: skinny spectacle wearing geeky guy sitting on a beach minding his own business when a big bruiser walks past and flicks sand at him.
“Hey! You kicked sand in my eye,” geeky guy wails. “So what YOU going to do about it?” says thug, shoving him backwards.
Well, one scoop of magic peanut butter later and the geek tackles the bully, judo throwing him over his shoulder and flexing his non-existent biceps while bikini clad lovelies simper around him.
It was the 80s … and the standards for ads were very low but the point is, no one likes having sand kicked in their face. Much less when it’s someone who has just come out of the surf, all salty and wet, only to pick up their towel and give it a good shake … all over you!
That’s the biggest no-no. Be considerate when shaking out your towel. Think about the way the wind is blowing and just how close your sunbathing neighbours are.
There’s more to beach etiquette than that. In places like Spain and Portugal there are a few special rules. Barcelona, for instance, forbids folks from walking around in their swimming costumes. So no showing off your beach bod in shorts and a bikini top for women or wearing surf shorts instead of “dress” shorts for guys. Also against the law for men to walk around bare chested anywhere other than at the beach … and in Greece, going barefoot is frowned upon. When leaving the golden or white sands on your idyllic island holiday, cover up and wear shoes.
(And just a word of warning if you are able to travel internationally, beware of the beach vendors in Italy. Whatever you do, don’t feel tempted to buy that cut price Dolce & Gabbana or Prada bag or sunglasses! You can be fined 6 000 Euro for being in possession of counterfeit goods …)
Whether you’re lucky enough to holiday in Margate, Plett, Ponta or Arniston this summer here are some tips to being a considerate beachgoer.
KEEP IT TIDY
The key to having a successful day at the beach is to be prepared. That means taking along protection – a good sun umbrella, broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses as well as sunscreen. And snacks. Just remember though, don’t leave anything behind. If you brought along cool drinks
or water in bottles or cans, dispose of them in the nearest bin or take them back home with you. Everyone likes neat, litter-free spots. Don’t be “those folks” who leave a mess behind.
If you like music and have brought along a Bluetooth speaker, keep the volume at a reasonable level. Not everyone is going to enjoy your playlist or selection of tunes.
The same goes for the spot you choose to sprawl in the sun. If you arrive early and there are few umbrellas and chairs around, don’t be “that person” who feels the need to sit right next to the one other couple or family. Give them – and yourselves – a bit of space. Everyone will appreciate the elbow and breathing room. And it takes care of those irritating towel shaking issues …
FILL IT IN
One of the things you always see at the beach are kids and parents alike digging holes in the sand. Sometimes really deep holes – and burying one another so that just a head is sticking out. And when someone is immobilised, it’s a great opportunity to squirt them with a water pistol, pop a silly hat on their heads or just generally take advantage of the situation.
But just remember to fill the hole back in. It’s not cool if someone else is staggering up the beach come home time, laden down with cooler box, chairs, umbrellas, baskets with toys and towels – and stumbles and twists an ankle in a random hole. It could happen to you too!
Greece and Barcelona might have rules but South African beaches don’t. Public nudity is generally a no-no unless you’re on a special nudist beach like Sandy Bay. Swimming attire should be worn especially if you’re going to be swimming. Underwear is just that; underwear! It might look like a pair of shorts from a distance but it’s really not … And once wet the fabric could reveal more than intended! And if you’re going to change into or out of your cozzie on the beach, wrap up in a towel and do it the way surfers do … carefully!
Kids love the beach. In fact, many adults turn into kids when they hit the sand! But seriously, keep an eye on your children when the beaches are crowded. The last thing that should happen is for a child to get lost and traumatised. On particularly busy days and beaches – like Durban at Christmas and New Year – there are innovative programmes run by the local lifeguards to register kids. Should the worst case scenario happen, life guards will have a cell number and be able to contact parents.
The flip side of the coin with children relates to being considerate about folks nearby. They might be trying to soak up the sunshine and enjoying the break to read a book and chill – while someone else’s little darlings are shrieking their heads off in delight at finding a crab. So choose a spot near other families. They’ll understand and not be grumpy plus there might just be some playmates to keep them entertained – which takes some of the stress off you.
It’s a favourite pastime. Other than sitting or lying in the sun, swimming, reading a book, listening to a podcast or playing volleyball or beach bats there’s not an awful lot to do other than people watch. It’s a fascinating pursuit but again, be considerate and try not to stare too openly. And if someone is a genuine fashion victim and you feel the urge to tell your sister, roommate, husband or wife, do so discreetly. Don’t feel the urge to comment too loudly, laugh or mock anyone else. It might have some unintended consequences – and everyone is at the beach to relax and have a good time.
PLAY THE FOOL
This is a biggie: don’t be tempted to pretend to drown to amuse your mates. It might seem like a good idea and be funny, but if the lifeguards have to hit the waves with a rescue buoy or surf ski, it means their attention is not on someone else who might genuinely be in trouble and need assistance.
The final two suggestions or informal rules are about public displays of affection and security. Everybody gets it. You’re in love and want to almost inhale your new boyfriend or girlfriend – but remember there are hundreds of people around, families and children. Keep it PG rated, not X rated.
And the last word is about security. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Don’t be too relaxed about your possessions. Your sunglasses, watches, wallet, phones and cameras can disappear in a flash if unattended. It also goes without saying that if you see something happening, and it doesn’t put you in danger, step in and help prevent a crime.
The reality is that some folks go to crowded beaches for the easy pickings and to steal a cell phone or two. Be security conscious and if you feel the urge to go for a swim, ask the nice family or couple nearby to keep an eye on your stuff. And return the favour. That’s being neighbourly and kind.
As Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame said: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Be considerate of others. The world needs a little more kindness and consideration.
Hydrate, slap on the sunscreen and, as much as possible, stay in the shade – and have fun!