Can you imagine having never seen the ocean in your life? Many people come to Tybee every year for their very first beach experience. Having grown up an hour from the coast myself, this was a rare, once a year, trip that was reserved for summers. My family would load the car down with supplies and head east until we saw the water. Our excitement could hardly be contained as we made our way there. Our hands were out the window catching air and we of course annoyed the parents with the “Are we there yet?” Once we would finally arrive, we set up our spot on the beach. We only forgot to wear our sandals once to remember that the sand is burning hot.
Once it got too hot or the breeze died down, we would decide to take a dip and cool off. Down to the water, we ran full on hair blowing wild and sand flying up behind our heels. We always boogie boarded, or belly surfed, the waves. Walking out we felt many things in the sand; shells, snails, coral, seaweed, and even fish would brush past our legs. We wouldn’t worry too much unless jellyfish were spotted. So, once we made it out to at least bellybutton deep, you are in a perfect position to ride the wave. You don’t want to go out too far as riptides and waves will push you around if you aren’t careful or used to the motion. So, now you wait. Wait for what, you ask? A big wave to catch, of course. Out on our boards, we would laugh and splash, and then we would see it; the big one! Start swimming with the wave, and it will propel you towards the shore. After several wipe outs and bellies rubbed full of shell, we were boogie boarding like the pros. Well, maybe not a pro, but I promise it was a fun time! Once exhausted from fighting waves, we would find our beach spot again and attempt to snack. Seagulls also like to snack, and we were always told not to feed them. We always did and with deep regret, once the birds’ whole family arrived for mealtime. Usually, it would start off as funny as lots of birds are squawking and flying above you, but this quickly turns to fear and embarrassment as you start to shriek.
Our sandcastles were built too close to the shore; incoming waves would slowly pull the sand from the walls. We would watch as the shell-adorned masterpiece floated away, but we weren’t sad, as we just built another. Sand is free and plentiful. You’ll likely even take some home with you.
As most of my family is fair-skinned, we would leave sun burnt to a crisp, but with happy memories. Deep sleep would come later that night with salty, but sweet dreams. When you lay in bed with eyes closed after a beach day, you can still feel the ebb and flow of the tides pulling you; in and out, back and forth, along the sand and shells. Rhythmic waves filled my childhood with Tybee’s sweet southern charm. I share my experience so that you’ll better understand the wit and beauty of small beach town, USA.