We’ve just returned from a week at the beach where we frolicked in the surf and boogied on our boards. We fought over umbrella shaded real estate, picked seaweed from between our toes, and, after a miserable Danish start to the summer, simply gloried in the feel of sun on our skin. My youngest son spouted another constellation of freckles, my oldest found a friend to dig holes with, and I, having now entered the phase of parenthood where the beach once again means a book and not frantically scanning the shoreline to make sure my babies haven’t been swept to sea, was free to people watch.
I’ve been to beaches all over the world, from Bondi to Hampton, Venice to Ayia Napa. Rocky, sandy, calm, dune filled and palm lined. Pacific, Atlantic, Baltic, Mediterranean. No matter where you are though, you’re bound to see the same sort of folks. Here are nine you’re likely to run into no matter which beach you decide to plonk your bikini-ed bottom on.
Hawaiian Tropic Leather. I mean Heather. Hawaiian Tropic Heather blithely ignores every piece of advice the AMA, WHO, and global cancer prevention associations put out and boldly dares skin cancer to come and get her. A true retro throwback, HT Heather guffaws in the face melanoma statistics. She slicks her skin with coconut scented oil and bastes like a Thanksgiving turkey. Heather’s chair is a sundial, moving with the rays. You’ll likely only see Hawaiian Heather between the hours of 10 and 2–when the sun is at its peak.
Bikini Brittany and the Beach Blanket Buddies. Eighteen and under, Brittany and her buddies have the bodies to back that thing up. They flaunt their young bods posing for countless duck face selfies with various friend combinations. Note: It’s not uncommon for Bikini Brit to make sure there is at least one One-Piece Willa, a “friend” who always looks just a little bit uncomfortable among all that flesh.
SPF Susie. SPF Sue can be found hovering and humming around her kids, constantly reapplying sunscreen. Strictly adhering to the manufacturer’s directions, she is ever ready with sprays, lotions, or sticks. She’s got a holster of factors ready to apply at any given towel dry moment. Sometimes you see her shake her head sadly as she passes Hawaiian Tropic Heather on her way back to her spf-proof blanket.
Flexing Felix. Felix makes sure his pecs are flexed and his abs twelve-packed at all times. Felix never misses an opportunity to count the ripples in his biceps or the veins in his quads. His beach bag is full of balls, frisbees, paddles, rackets, and anything else which he can use to showcase his physique.
Glenna Goth. Dragged to the beach against her will, Glenna is loath to expose even an inch of skin and give up her pristine translucent paleness. Glenna can often be found crouching beneath a towel, under an umbrella, a hefty book in her hands. Sometimes she’s with a friend–Scrawny Steve or Awkward Al–who is invariably wearing black jeans despite the rising temperatures.
Determined Debbie and Dale. Despite weekend crowds making the beach resemble a page out of Where’s Waldo, Debbie and Dale are determined to walk hand in hand along the shoreline and announce their couple status. Reenacting a personal Nicholas Sparks fantasy, they dodge sand castles, rising tides, sand flinging toddlers, errant sprays of sunscreen and rogue umbrellas swept up by the wind. All in order to synch their footprints and twine their hands and hearts.
Everything and the Kitchen Sink Smiths. The Smiths appear to have transferred most of the contents of their house onto the beach. Tents, marquees, crock pots, coolers, air mattresses, pack-n-plays and a small picnic table. A blender. Three course hot meals, mixed drinks, a portable shower. Forgot a corkscrew? Need something reheated? Go and see the Smiths.
Pale Peter. Peter is the pale skinned young man you see pinking up like a nice piece of steak. While Glenna does everything she can to stay out of the sun, Pale Peter tries desperately to lightly toast his marshmallow white belly. Everything about Pale Peter screams “Ouch.” Everything about Pale Peter makes you want to send SPF Sue to his towel to help him avoid the sunburn you can see developing like a Polaroid before your eyes.
Waist High Waders. Waist high waders are the people who only go into the water to pee. They almost never get anything above their belly buttons wet, though they will sometimes splash their shoulders a little to distract everyone on shore. Alas, everyone knows exactly what the Waist High Waders are doing because we’ve all done the same.
When I was young, caught somewhere between a Glenna and a One-piece Willa, longing to be a Brit and looking for a Felix to call my own, I was too caught up in my own insecurities to notice everyone else. I just wanted a Dale to my Debbie. I would have settled for a Peter. Nowadays though, spritzing my kids every now and again with factor 50, I can hang out and watch the world go by. Or just hang out in the waist high water, wise enough to know exactly what’s going on.