Sea and Sand

The young men and women of Santa Maria, California, live on the edge of another world, a mysterious, only partly explored domain that covers three-fourths of the earth. They know how to have a lot of fun where the sand meets the sea, and they set out one day in July to have as much of it as they could.

They started with horseplay, acrobatics, and sand surfing on the practically alpine sand dunes of Pismo Beach State Park, within sight of the surf. They had cut small, point-nosed sand surfing boards out of formica and had waxed the smooth surface with paraffin. They can sail down a steep dune as if it were the face of a giant wave.

Later there was frisbee throwing, sand castle building, and clam digging on the beach. Plying the clam forks vigorously, they added the basic ingredient to the clam chowder stock that was already bubbling higher up the beach, thanks to the efforts of the girls. One young man unlimbered his skim board on the wet sand. (A skim board is a round board cut out of plywood and then fiberglassed.) He would run a few steps, holding the board in front of him, then throw it down and jump on it for a slick ride atop the thin film of water left by a retreating wave.

The group couldn’t do any swimming at Pismo Beach because of the rough surf and dangerous currents, so they loaded the chowder and their sandy bodies into the cars and headed for Avila Beach only minutes away. Avila is a swimming beach, and the crowds of people witnessed that the water was fine.

After swimming, sunning, and surfing at Avila, they gathered at a beachside picnic table to enjoy the clam chowder. Afterwards, while most of the group sunned themselves, a couple of young men headed up the beach to a rocky area to explore tide pools, the basins of sea water trapped in depressions in the rocks when the tide goes out. They found starfish and other small sea creatures waiting for the sea to come back and reclaim them.

The next day the group headed back to the sand dunes for some cliff-hanging dune buggy fun and a little more sand surfing. They kept at it till there was nothing left of them but silhouettes against the sky and the sea.

[photos] Photos by James Christensen