Thursday, June 8, 2006
A perfect Monterey County summer day is a day spent at a local beach. Whether it’s an afternoon on the flour-white sand of Carmel Beach or the rock-and-driftwood-strewn shoreline of Andrew Molera State Park, a beach day can easily melt away the worries of contemporary living. Some folks use their time on the beach to plow through those books they were hoping to read in the winter months. Others seek more active pursuits. Here are some fun ones and the resources to make them happen:
VOLLEYBALL will always be closely associated with the beach lifestyle. Locally, there are several volleyball courts available on a first-come, first-served basis. Overlooking Carmel Beach, there are three courts just north of the restrooms by the Ocean Avenue parking lot. Players must bring their own net and ball.
Both Pacific Grove and Monterey have designated volleyball courts for setters and spikers. At Pacific Grove’s Lovers Point Park, a single court with a net is located right next to the pool area. In Monterey, three courts are located in the Monterey Bay Park, which is commonly referred to as Windows on the Bay. The parkland, right across from El Estero Lake, has only one court with a net. To use the other two courts, you must bring your own netting.
Probably the quintessential summer sport is SURFING. Though cold ocean waters and the impressive summer south swells can make learning difficult for neophytes, there are a few spots that can be good for beginners if the right conditions exist. The best ones are Pacific Grove’s Asilomar Beach or the section of Del Monte Beach in front of the Best Western Beach Resort Monterey when the waves are very small. Both are long sandy beaches that allow newcomers to stay away from more seasoned shredders. Also, Asilomar and Del Monte have few natural hazards to contend with, like rocks, pilings or hard-breaking waves.
Newbies can rent equipment at the area’s two surf shops: Sunshine Freestyle Surf Shop (375-5015) and On The Beach Surf Shop (646-9283). Both offer soft-top boards, which are best for beginners, for $20 for a 24-hour period. They also rent wetsuits, which you need unless you want to lose feeling in your extremities.
Sunshine also rents a little thing called a SKIMBOARD. For the uninitiated, skimboards are small finless boards that folks ride across the thin layer of ocean water that moves across the sand after a wave breaks. It is easy to pull off a 360 on your first day—just put your hand in the sand, man—but the sport’s frequent wipeouts can be painful. A 24-hour skimboard rental costs $10 at Sunshine.
Other people would rather fully immerse themselves in the ocean rather than gliding across it. These sorts of beachgoers are often referred to as snorkelers. SNORKELING allows you to experience the wonders of the ocean—kelp forests, brightly colored fish, sea lions diving—without all that bulky scuba-diving equipment. Great local snorkeling spots include Pacific Grove’s Lovers Point and Monterey’s Breakwater Cove, which is located by the Coast Guard Pier.
If you need to rent equipment, there are several local dive sites that can satisfy your needs. Bamboo Reef Dive Shop (372-1685) rents a full snorkel package with mask, fins, snorkel, hood, gloves and wetsuit for $30. The Aquarius Dive Shop (375-1933) has a similar deal for $35.
A way to utilize the beach without stepping foot in the ocean is to FLY A KITE. Windborne Kites (375-0851) sells a wide range of kites from $5 basic models to a Balinese Kite, which includes intricate hand-painted patterns and a bamboo frame.
This year, in addition to perennial beach favorites like paddle board, you will see huge tire-sized flying discs, which run $10 at Target, soaring above local beaches. These toys look like enormous Frisbees.
There are some beachgoers who would just rather sit on a beach towel and sip a cold one. For these folks, may I suggest a wetsuit bottle insulator, i.e. a beer huggie, adorned with a clever saying like “I don’t know what makes you so dumb, but it’s really working.” These are on sale at Longs Drug for just $4.99.