Beach Culture

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my favorite activities is people watching. I love observing human behavior. The way people act is a representation of the way they think, and I love trying to understand how and why people think they way they do. I know what my own personal view of the world is, but how do others see it? What is life like from within another person’s shoes?

One of the reasons I love exploring the local hangouts of any given town is because I believe it gives me a more intimate look into the lives of the people living there. It provides me with hints of what the true culture is like. I’m a strong believer in the idea that you can only really understand someone once you’ve experienced, or at least observed with your own eyes, and physical and social the environment in which they grew up and/or the places they currently choose to spend their free time. Beach towns are particularly interesting to me because although they are widely acknowledged for having cutesie boutiques and peaceful atmospheres, the true nature of these towns is often missed. Beneath the surface is an entirely different town with a unique culture of its own, one that only locals and very frequent visitors experience. Because I was born and raised in a college town I cannot by any means say I understand beach culture, but I have had the opportunity to briefly observe it.

Usually when I visit Santa Cruz I head straight to their most famous and most popular beach, the one that runs just along the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It’s the easiest to get to and everyone knows where it is, making it a convenient destination when meeting up with friends. Now and then though I go exploring on my own, or am invited to a local beach by a friend. I love these little adventures for two reasons. The first is the peace and quiet of these spots is lovely. It’s so nice to get away from the crowds. The second is it provides me a unique glance into local life. Even after just a few minutes of watching the Santa Cruz locals interact, I feel like I have a much better understanding of why these people are the way they are. I’ve only met several people who were born and raised in Santa Cruz, but all of these people have something in common that makes them very special. I think it’s their laidback demeanor and just go-with-the-flow attitude. All I know is that I’ve walked away feeling incredibly refreshed after hanging out with any one of these people. I always assumed that their distinct demeanor was the result of growing up in a beach town that is renowned for being super crunchy and for being filled to the brim with hippies. Now, after having had several opportunities to observe the local culture of Santa Cruz, I think I am beginning to understand a bit more about how they have developed into the people they are today. These small glances into their lives have made me even more curious though about what living in a place like Santa Cruz would be like. This town runs at a completely different pace than most other towns in the Silicon Valley, which, by California standards, run at about 100 miles an hour. Having grown up in the fast paced, competitive environment of Palo Alto I wonder what it would be like to switch gears and step into a world where people seem to live more simply and to be satisfied with the gifts they’ve been offered, however big or small those may be.

I think there are a lot of lessons we can learn from the people of Santa Cruz. Everyone can benefit from adding a bit more simplicity into their lives. It’s always been a goal of mine to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and to find beauty in the smallest of things. As long as we have friends and/or family, food on the table, a place to sleep, and a place to bath, we are blessed. Our consumer driven society has caused us to develop insatiable appetites that always crave something new and different. Because of this I think it’s incredibly important to actively taking the time to appreciate the things we do have, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant.

The Beach: A People Watching Hotspot

You find all types of different people at the beach, which for those of us who sometimes like to just sit back and take in our surroundings makes it one of the best places to soak up some rays. While getting that golden brown skin that is so highly coveted, you also get to perform a very interesting observational study. You can learn about fashion, pick up some new slang, take notes about which types of sunscreen work best, and learn a cool new way to dive for that ball you always seem to miss when playing volleyball. Another beautiful thing about the beach is that it’s the one place where everyone seems comfortable enough to show it all off. Regardless of the insecurities people may face in ordinary life, at the beach all inhibitions are set aside in order show off their cute and brightly colored swimsuits, and to fully enjoy the sun and the waves. Another reason why the beach is great is that you almost never see a grumpy or sad face. Rather, the shore is lined with people smiling, laughing, or simply looking content with life. Families play with their children and teach the youngest ones how to dip their toes into the cold water, teenagers gossip about school, and several friends throw around a football while others throw around a Frisbee. The beach has something for everyone, hence the basis of its appeal. Because the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has the amusement park right along the beach, here you get an even more varied selection of people. You get the adrenaline junkies, the city folk looking to get away from the hustle and bustle, as well as plenty of quirky locals who you can tell in an instant by their dreads, bohemian garb or surfer look that they were born and raised in Santa Cruz. Here are some pics I snapped during my own people-watching escapade (and by that I mean as I sat there with my camera and tried to find something interesting to point it at without actually moving).

Skim boarding
Sitting and Watching
girls gossiping
Runnnn!Jumping pic