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Why I hate beaches

Words by Rob Chilton

Sweat, sticky sunscreen, sand and sunstroke – why do people like the beach so much?

Beaches are the most overrated thing about holidays. People jump off the plane, dump their suitcases and race to the beach. Why? Beaches are rubbish.

Firstly, the parking is nightmarish. Such is the clamour for a spot on the beach that parking spaces are all taken by 8.30am, which means you have to arrive at the crack of dawn to secure your two square feet of sand upon which you will lie all day. But you’ve got up so early that you’ve had to skip breakfast and are therefore cranky the moment you arrive. Furthermore, you’ve had to park illegally with two wheels wedged on a sand dune so you’ll probably need a tow truck at the end of the day, plus you’ll have a parking ticket.

Car parked, you survey the beach scene in front of you. You’ve spotted a tiny sliver of space two hundred metres away. Now you must trudge across the hot sand clutching your snack bag, towels, inflatable flamingos and umbrella, apologising as you flick sand in people’s faces with your flip flops as you pass. You establish base camp and lay down a towel. It blows away. You lay it down again. It blows away. You remember that tip you once read in a magazine and bury the corners underneath the sand. It blows away. The only way to keep the towel in position is to lie on it.

Well, this looks relaxing

Lying on sand is uncomfortable. You try smoothing the bumps and lumps away with your feet but there’s always one mound that remains and pushes its evil way into your lower back, triggering your sciatica. You can’t be bothered to lift up your towel and pat it down so you resign yourself to crippling back pain as you lie baking in the heat.

People only ever go to beaches in the heat. Heat means sweat. Sand and sweat do not go well together. Even just brushing your elbow across the sand means you are coated in the stuff but you can’t wipe it off because your hands are sticky and sweaty too. Protection from the sun means you must apply copious amounts of sunscreen, which is a chore even in a clean, air-conditioned bathroom and utter hell on a beach. Pretty soon, you – and your sunglasses, watch and book – are a slimy slop of sweat, sand and sunscreen.

It’s time for a swim to cool your body down from molten lava to pizza oven. Carefully tiptoe your way past the dozens of people that now surround you and you reach the shoreline where razor sharp seashells lie in wait like a challenge on a Japanese game show. You try to walk as gently as possible, throwing your arms about like an octopus at a rock concert, but it’s agony. Then, you’re confronted by a stripe of hard pebbles that inflict pain on the soles of your feet like a reflexology spa treatment gone very wrong. You reach the sea – the harsh, salty sea that stings your eyes and gets in your throat and makes you feel sick. You try a paddle but get freaked out by a dark object underneath you – it’s a seaweed-covered bucket, but looks like a hammerhead shark – and you flail around in the water terrified. You race out of the water – across the pebbles and seashells – and lie down, covered in sand and salt water that makes your skin dry and tight.

The dreaded application of sunscreen

By now it’s lunchtime. You reach inside your cooler bag and pull out a sandwich with hands that you’ve tried to wipe the best you can, but inevitably sand gets into your cheese and pickle and scratches your teeth. Well, I guess it’s cheaper than teeth whitening at the dentist.

It’s midday now and you’re starting to feel dizzy with heatstroke - time to put the umbrella up. A gust of wind yanks it out of your slimy sunscreen-covered hands and it cartwheels down the beach, poking the eyes out of toddlers and causing pandemonium. After an embarrassing retrieval, you grasp the umbrella pole and stab it into the sand, before frantically attempting that backwards and forwards wiggling motion you’ve seen other guys do on the beach. You must have hit a rock because the umbrella isn’t sinking down. You try another patch of sand, your back and biceps are burning, you feel everyone watching you, another gust blows the umbrella inside out. Oh, just forget it – I’d rather have heatstroke.

The day creeps by painfully slowly as you wait for the sun to dip, thus giving you the excuse to leave this sandy, sweaty nightmare. But wait, sunset means sundowners in a beachfront bar! Okay, I’ll admit it, that’s one thing I like about the beach.

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