For most of my many summers living in New York City, I never went to the beach. Year after year, I’d see photos of my friends spending their weekend afternoons schlepping to Riis beach or the Rockaways and feel not even the slightest pang of jealousy.
While they were spending between one and three hours getting there, I was drinking coffee or watching a movie or finishing a book or, even better, sleeping in. While they were getting burned because they forgot to reapply and not going into the water because it was too cold and not finishing a book because everyone else was distracting them, I was in front of a fan—or better, in an air conditioned movie theater. But as my friends have gotten older, more of them have acquired both cars and a fear of UV rays. Because of that perfect storm, I went to a New York City beach earlier this month for the first time in years. We drove there in under an hour, and I sat under a damned tent the entire time. It was bliss, or as close to bliss as I’ve ever felt while sitting on the sand with hundreds of strangers. I finally understood the beach.
But there are some people who think I’m beaching all “wrong,” despite every pleasantly shaded skin cell on my body telling me otherwise. David Colon over at Gothamist says that—in addition to being symptomatic of something called beachspreading—the increasingly common practice of erecting beach tents “violates the spirit of catching some rays at the beach.”
Well, much like New Yorkers use the cities many parks for different reasons—like to walk their dogs, escape their roommates, take a little nap, or sit and watch an episode of Orange Is the New Black on their phone—we all visit the beach (large, easily accessible public beaches especially) for different reasons. So, while you may want to “catch some rays,” please know that many people—myself included—want to enjoy the view and fresh air from the comforts of an easily transported, reasonably priced, collapsible structure that prevents the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays from giving me skin cancer.
As with most activities that rely on public spaces, you may find yourself needing to adjust your own schedule and strategy to experience the beach in a way you’d prefer. Those who want a good view should get there earlier, those who want more privacy should go to the less popular areas, and those who want utter peace and quiet should probably avoid public beaches all together and maybe rent a house somewhere on the Hamptons. Or maybe the Cape.
Otherwise, bring the bright blue foldable house you bought on Amazon, play music as long as it’s not too loud because everyone else is anyway (despite what an unnamed Gothamist editor has to say about it), and be sure to reapply your sunscreen regularly—even if your fragile skin hasn’t crept beyond the borders of the tent since you arrived.