Rules of the Sand: A Lesson in Beach Etiquette


By Matthew Le Blanc

It’s beach season and I’ve got some helpful tips to keep your day in the sand free of frustration. I’ve compiled a few unspoken guidelines and suggestions in beach etiquette that every mature sun chaser should know to avoid having sand kicked in their face. Feel free to follow along with the easy-to-follow diagrams.

Rule #1: Setting Up Shop

Always leave at least two umbrella lengths of space between you and other parties. If someone gets a little too close take your sunglasses off and stare them down. If they don’t get the hint, ask someone to spray sun tan lotion on you while you’re upwind. Smoke them out like you would a bee’s nest. Who knows, maybe they’ll move even further away. There’s nothing worse than parking your blanket beside someone who goes on for hours about family issues, you get enough of that at work.

The second problem this avoids is blocking and/or being blocked off from the view. Always look where you’re planning to make camp. I go to the beach to relax and enjoy myself, not to get in fist fights. Be considerate and leave space. Generally people don’t want to spend their day looking at the back of your fold out chair and tattered 1980’s Coca Cola umbrella.

Diagram #1: As you can clearly see on the left, umbrellas are breaching your No-Umbrella Zone (NUZ) and are completely blocking your view. This behaviour will lead to an inevitable beach brawl. On the right, everybody is happy. Well, maybe not the guy in the top right, but that’s not your problem.

Rule #2: Stay In Front of Your Stuff

When you’re in the water be sure to stay in line with your camp. If you find yourself floating in line with other people’s things, get the hell back to where you belong. There’s nothing worse than having no area to swim with water being a scarce commodity at the beach. Keep a solid line-of-sight with your blanket and you’ll do fine. If your position becomes compromised and you begin to feel threatened, the best way to handle this is to latch on to your partner while floating. Floating unusually close to one another will give people the impression you’re having sex. Who wants to be around that? I hope no one.

Diagram #2: The black dotted lines indicate the “safe zone” where proper etiquette is maintained. The picture on the left demonstrates pure chaos as swimmers treat the water as if it were a playground. On the right, swimmers keep to their zones ensuring enough room for everyone. I’m sure there’s an anecdote in there somewhere.

Rule #3: Don’t You Put It in Your Mouth

By no means should you be putting any amount of water in your mouth. People will pee in the water. Kids will pee in the water even more. Birds will poop and pee even more than more in the water. It’s human nature to just go and nobody is lazier than a human. Why would someone walk soaking wet all the way to a toilet over blazing hot sand when they can inconspicuously go where they float? For this reason, I suggest swimming further out than most people to stay out of the danger zone. You can’t save everybody, so just save yourself (Words to live by during an apocalyptic event). For safety reasons, kids are usually restricted to the shoreline, but you know what that means. Children may be cute, but they’re literally building sand castles in their own urine soaked sand. No wonder they never last.

Diagram #3: As you can see, most of the contamination pools itself near the shore where it’s pushed. Hiking out roughly 25 feet will ensure that your body is surrounded by the freshest water possible, giving you and your loved ones the freedom to pee in the water.

Rule #4: Do As The Seagulls Do

If a family with a better spot gets up to leave, loosely pack your things and swoop in like a seagull to claim it. Nobody will judge you for it. Everyone else in the immediate vicinity was thinking the exact same thing, but fell victim to non-existent peer pressure. This rule also applies to any movable objects, such as a picnic table or BBQ. Just walk over like a caveman and claim it as your own. If anyone calls you on it start flapping your arms and squawking like two seagulls fighting over a dropped french fry.


Diagram #4: You must become one with the seagull; finding the most direct path to the clearly superior and recently vacated beach area. Who knows, they might have left some good eats.

Rule #5: Speedos – To Stare, Or Not To Stare

It’s inevitable. Someone at some point during your day will walk along the shore wearing a small, yet snug Speedo. Don’t panic, don’t stare. They want you to ogle over their ungroomed chest hair and knobby package. Why else would they be standing there with their hands on their hips? Like a T. Rex, they will quickly move on as long as you remain still and don’t flash a light in their eyes.

Diagram #5: Conveniently missing. I believe the picture has already been painted.

And now for some tips.

Tip #1: Location X 3

Picking a beach to spend a day at is easy enough, but where do you go when you get there? I say as far away from everyone else as possible. Who doesn’t want their own private beach? I know it’s not always feasible, but allow me to make a few suggestions. First of all, go to the beach during the week. Everybody is working while you’re out having a life. Call in sick, take a vacation day, quit, who cares? There might be a few kids running around, but it doesn’t even come close to the numbers you will see on the weekend. You can probably walk around nude for a few hours before it’s called in.

Next, if you have the option of going to either a public beach or a private park, like a conservation area, go to the private area. Paying to get into these areas are way overpriced (Usually $13-14 for the day), but it makes all the difference. Public beach areas have turned into episodes of Jersey Shore. If you want to spend your day feeling fat and out of place, by all means save some money and hang around the public beach. I’ll spend the few dollars to be surrounded by families who could care less about my dorky straw hat and love handles. Snooki Central or absolute freedom? I believe the choice is clear.

Tip #2: Offering a Service: The Legal Way

Concerning the $14 that you paid to get into the park. If you’re an early beachgoer try reselling your ticket for $10 dollars at the entrance on your way out. You probably won’t want to finish your day peddling to make some money back, but I know from experience that it actually works. My partner thinks it’s pathetic and makes fun of me, but it helps offset your cost and you might be saving some other family from utter destitution. It’s win-win-win. The extra win is for hooking.

Tip #3: Buy Foreign

I don’t mean intercontinental – I’m talking away from the beach. The mark up is incredible for items ranging from inner tubes to hot dogs (Dirty!). Dollar stores have tons of useful and beach friendly items you can bring with you to occupy yourself with. They might only last a day, but so do the things you buy from a surf shop. A perfectly landed elbow drop will destroy the best made flotation device, so why not save money doing it.

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