By Tracey Engelking
Special to the SC Times
Much like no one likes a dirty beach, no one really likes blackball flags either. Sure, they have their place; the whole point of them existing in the summertime is to make the waters safer for everyone by keeping the hard boards away from swimmers and spongy boards. I think we all begrudgingly understand the necessity—seriously, who wants their 9’8″ log to cartwheel into the beach and take out a toddler from Wisconsin who just wrapped up the finishing touches on the third floor turret of her sandcastle? No one; that’s who. I’m talking about how a blackball flag signals not only the start to summer, but also the start of “the crowd”.
I’m not sure where “the crowd” comes from; some say inland, some say the East Coast, and some say Europe—I’m thinking this one could have a ring of truth to it, because I have seen a dramatic uptick in white Speedos since June. But, I do know that “the crowd” means the end to conveniently located empty parking spots, the end to wide open freeways, the beginning of the SanO line and the start of non-stop complaining about “the crowd.” However, even though “the crowd” can be a little overwhelmingly dense at times, they do bring with them lots of great stuff too. Without them, we might not have free summer beach concerts, The Pageant of the Masters, The Sawdust Festival, San Clemente Ocean Festival and loads more crowd-friendly stuff that us locals get to take in. In a way, “the crowd” kind of gives a lot more than it takes—much like our frenemy the blackball flag.
Sure, the blackball flag divides and conquers the beach into sections like “no hardboard surfing,” “no swimming,” “no SUPing” and “no super happy fun times.” Sometimes that can be a real bust to our plans, but it does give us a distinct line in the sand for the start of “the crowd” when the flags go up, and an end to “the crowd” when the flags come down. I like to think of the flags coming down—as they did Monday night at 6 p.m., not to be put up again until next June—as the start of Local Summer, the glorious months of September and October when the weather is still warm and the water isn’t quite cold enough for a full suit. “The crowd” is gone, the kids are back in school and it’s just you and me and a south swell.
Wave goodbye to “the crowd” for awhile, grab your board, drop the kids off at school, throw a smile on your face and let’s kick off Local Summer in style. See you in the water!
Tracey Engleking is the Lifestyle Athlete and Social Media Marketing Specialist for Hobie and author of the Hobie Surf Shop Blog at www.hobiesurfshops.wordpress.com.