Island Living: Unenforceable Beach Crimes
and the Guilty Parties Who Commit Them
So the other day I was re-reading
Irene’s iconic and completely informative 2016 article
on Beach Manners, and it got me to thinking - (bad habit, I
By JOY CRIST
There are obviously plenty of “Rules
of the Beach” that are both good manners and are enforceable by
law, but what about those other circumstances that aren’t
necessarily illegal, but can nevertheless drive you mad? I couldn’t
help but mull over those situations as well, and wonder if there
could be a secondary set of guidelines that essentially say: “Yes,
you technically can do these things… But you’re going to
annoy a heck of a lot of people if you do.”
And the more I considered this set of
“Unenforceable Rules of the Beach,” the more I realized that I,
personally, was guilty of a bunch of offenses. Yes, some of these
crimes were committed in my much, much younger years, but I am sorry
to report that others occurred as recently as last month.
So in the interest of honesty, and of
not being an unbearable finger-wagging judgmental person, I’m going
to share my imagined list of “Unenforceable Beach Crimes,” while
noting which ones that I am personally guilty of.
Hopefully, just detailing these items
in writing will encourage others to think about their actions before
they ruin someone else’s day at the beach… and by “others,” I
naturally mean me.
Beach Crime #1: Near
Verdict for Yours Truly: Guilty, but Reformed
Nudity is illegal on the Cape Hatteras
National Seashore, no question.
But what about those cases where you’re
not really nude, but where there is literally so little left to the
imagination that it’s pretty darn easy to figure out what’s under
those precious few inches of spandex?
Granted, I was a guilty of this offense
when I was young, and was worried about super important issues like
tan lines. In fact, I actually owned bikinis that consisted of three
triangles and a few strings, which I still have buried in the back of
my closet. (Although, trying them now would reduce both me – and
anyone who was an unfortunate witness – to tears.)
So there is a little leeway for the
near nudity crime – tan lines are, after all, still a pressing
concern – but if you gotta go nearly naked, do it when there is no
There are hundreds of Speedo jokes out
there for a reason.
And with the rise of social media and
cell phone cameras, the threat of having your privates made public is
very real, and should be taken into consideration before wearing
anything to the beach that could also double as the material for a
Beach Crime #2: Hogging all the
Loot while Beachcombing
Verdict for Yours Truly: Guilty as
Have you ever gone to a semi-deserted
beach on the hunt for shells or sea glass, and found that there was
an incredibly obnoxious person on the shore rooting through every
shell pile, picking it clean, and then moving on to the next one like
a crazed, starving vulture? That person was most likely me.
I think the majority of beachcombers
are wonderful and generous people, until there’s a storm, or a
sandbar, or any other circumstances that lead to a beach full of
And then we all just turn feral.
Case in point, I was at my favorite
secret shelling beach just a couple months ago, (and you can already
tell I’m a jerk because there is absolutely no way I will disclose
where it’s located), when I realized that on that particular day, I
had walked into Whelk Heaven.
For whatever reason, the recent swell
had produced a beach filled with tons of absolutely perfect whelks of
all colors and sizes – too many to count – which were ripe for
Now, a considerate person would pick
their favorites, limiting themselves to how many they could actually
and comfortably carry, and leave the rest behind for other
Well, I didn’t do that. At all.
I filled my shell bag, and then I took
my coat off – even though it was a brand new coat and it was 40
degrees outside – and I filled that too, like a stylish hobo sack.
And then when both my shell bag and my
coat overflowed, I found a long ragged tarp that had also washed up,
and filled that sucker as well. By the time I was done, and had
wrapped up a line of gorgeous whelks in this 8’ foot long tarp, it
literally looked like I was carrying a shrouded dead body along the
beach while grinning from ear to ear.
In fact, the one person who passed by
me while I was heading to my car - grinning and dragging the apparent
body bag - gave me such a shocked look that I was sure the
authorities were on their way. (I would have called them too, to be
Anyways, I did in fact receive my
comeuppance for this greedy act.
The next day, my arms felt like they
had been stretched for hours on a medieval rack, and a few days after
that, I encountered an angry cottonmouth while en route to the same
spot – which I figured was a sign that I had been too greedy, and
was therefore banned from the beach for a while.
So take what you can actually carry
when it comes to beachcombing – not what you can haul away in a
makeshift body bag – and keep the greed to the minimum, if you can.
And if you can’t follow this advice,
don’t feel bad at all. When the getting’s good, it’s hard to
stick to tasteful decorum, and to being the classy person that you
are when great shells are not involved.
Beach Crime #3: Nosie Pollution
due to Really Bad Music
Verdict for Yours Truly: Guilty,
but in Denial
Sometimes, you set up camp near another
group on the beach who have their radio blaring, and you’re
delighted to find that they have exceptionally great taste in music.
(I’ve found that most of the time, these awesome people have their
truck radio set to 101.5, which never disappoints.)
Other times, their musical inclinations
are not as enjoyable.
Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy
hard-core rap, techno, and metal as much as the next person who grew
up in the 90s, and who therefore automatically has music tastes that
can be defined as “questionable.” (Britany Spears or Chumbawamba,
But when I’m trying to relax, hearing
a barrage of curse words at a ridiculously fast pace tends to detract
from my moment of Zen. (Also, Taylor Swift.)
Now am I guilty of this crime? I would
respond with “no,” but I assure you that everyone else around me
would say “Most definitely, yes.”
It was only recently that I discovered
that most of the music-listening universe does not share my
appreciation for KC and the Sunshine Band, Nickelback (in limited
doses, mind you), and literally anything with a banjo.
So if you have bad taste in music, keep
And if you don’t think you have bad
taste in music, but everyone grimaces when you try to take control of
the playlist at a party, or refuses to get into your car unless your
radio is broken, keep it quiet too.
And don’t worry if you suddenly
discover you taste in music goes against the grain of good taste like
I did. After all, if you can’t dance in your living room to the
contagious chorus of “Ladies Night” after three beers, then
what’s the point of living?
#4: Horrible, Distracted Driving
Verdict for Yours Truly:
Pleading the Fifth
Forget about the rules and frustrations
of driving on the beach - trying to navigate N.C. Highway 12 in the
summer is easily the pinnacle of unenforceable beach crime.
First and foremost, there are the
people passing on the right – an unusual rule to get used to for
sure if you don’t have it in your region, (and most of the country
doesn’t), but something that surely can be picked up within a day
or two of being on the islands.
Then, there are the people that HAVE to
go 20 mph over the speed limit - because Lord knows the beach won’t
be there if they arrive 5 minutes late - and who literally have to
rub up against your bumper to get to where they are going.
(Seriously, buy a Jeep dinner first, if you don’t mind.)
Then, on the other end of the spectrum,
you have the folks on that nondescript stretch of highway between
Avon and Buxton – where there are literally no turns and no
distractions – who are cruising at a steady 35 mph, and who slow
down at the sight of every quasi-interesting sand dune.
Simply put, if you ever have a need to
blow off a little steam, and to yell at people from the comfort of
your car’s interior, then head to the highway in the summertime.
But as much as I love to complain about
Highway 12 – and let’s face it, we all do – I’m honestly as
guilty as the rest of them.
I slow down when I’m being indecisive
over whether I want to take a detour along Ramp 27 or 30. I’ll
speed up when I’m in an apparent hurry for nothing more important
than trying to hit up Orange Blossom Bakery before it closes. And
just last week, I accidently slammed on my breaks when I realized the
Dairy Queen in Avon had reopened for the season – cause, Blizzards!
So I suppose the general rule of thumb
when it comes to driving on the beach or on the pavement is the same
– quit being distracted and pay attention.
I promise I’ll do my part if you do
too, (although my apologies in advance if I screech to a stop and
pull into Dairy Queen at the last minute because the Cookie Dough is
calling, and I must respond.)
Make no mistake that when it comes to
my beach offenses list, I could easily keep going. There are those
loud obnoxious people who annoy everyone at the local bar (guilty),
those inexperienced anglers who get their lines tangled up with
anyone within 100 yards of their casting spot (guilty), or those
folks who wear sandals with socks - (also, guilty. And they are
sometimes Christmas-themed socks to boot.)
But I do believe that I have
incriminated myself enough at this point, and in any case, I think
the overall lesson in all of these offenses is the same. Do unto
others on the beach, and you won’t commit an unenforceable beach
I assure you, you’ll never have to
worry about seeing me on the beach in a slingshot bathing suit, or
playing my beloved KC and the Sunshine Band without earphones again.
I’ve learned my lesson.
Now when it comes to shells, well,
that’s another story altogether.