Why do you like the beach? Because it makes you feel happy.

smilie face

Why do you like the beach? ‘Cause it’s a place where you go to relax, exert energy, cry and laugh. Stare beyond the horizon and breathe fresh air. It’s your happy space, just as much as your love one or those over there you don’t know and may never know. This leads me to make my first assumption – that you like the beach because it makes you feel happy.

You know your beach – in and out – or so it seems. From how the sand moves and waves break, you might even pick up litter or collect a few shells and rocks along the way. Over the years you do this without even realising. That’s until you are stopped and asked how the beach makes you feel – or even, how does the beach feels?

This is what I am interested in – how the beach makes you feel and whether this is related to beach health, sustainability and the empowerment of ‘community’ on your beach. How does your beach experience shape the person you are, influence your understanding of the beach and even ‘participate’ at the beach – back to your beach experience.

Why?

For the last three decades, leaders within coastal management have been advocating for institutional reform to re-shape the way we manage Australia’s coast. Although integrated coastal zone management sounds ‘integrated’, it is far from integrated. And I think I have a few thoughts about ‘the why’ – which I’d like to share.

First of all, I think it all starts with our very own cultural make up. You see, I am a classically trained environmental scientist, however, now an arts post grad, I challenge the way ‘we’ conform to institutions. Even how my own beach experience is shape by these institutions. Maybe I really do over analyse my beach experience – or ponder too much about what’s beyond the horizon. Though, it is true, my educational background found these thoughts, which makes we question how your educational background influences your beach experience.

This brings me to question everything! So, what is a ‘beach’?

Fundamentally, the definition of a beach is defined as a landscape that is neither land nor sea; a littoral fringe shaped by what is and the uncertainty of the sea (Short & Jackson, 2013).

Fortunately, I have connections with the likes of Prof. Andy Short – a world expert on beaches – to call to discuss this definition. You see, he is a classically trained coastal geomorphologist and is part of the founding coastal science culture. He defines ‘beach’ based on his educational background, which shapes his experience at the beach and the very definition we use to develop an understanding of what is a ‘beach’.

Can I rest my case – well, not quite?

Because, I’ve also been speaking with cultural scientists and they talk about how a ‘beach’ forms a place for communities to thrive and create social connectivity – which defines our very own Australian beach culture – that Booth (2001) classically writes about.

Where does this leave me? Left sitting on the fence still questioning – “To only acknowledge where sediments and water carve a coastline as a definition limits a holistic understanding of a beach, which confines the objectives of coastal management that fundamentally responds to one’s own experience and interaction with the coast. Therefore, suggests a need for a more multidisciplinary approach to define ‘beach’ as a cultured space that accounts for cultural and natural elements”.

I’ll be presenting this research concept at the Australian Coastal Councils Seachange Taskforce Conference this week in Ballina.

More share very soon #happybeaches

Short A.D., and Jackson D.W.T. (2013) Beach Morphodynamics, In: John F. Shroder (ed.) Treatise on Geomorphology, Volume 10, pp: 106-129, San Diego: Academic Press.

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