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The Great Beach Debate: East Coast vs West Coast

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Having recently traveled to Hermosa Beach in California, and consecutively attempted to hit up all of New York beaches, I feel like each has something to offer. These two coastlines couldn’t be more different, and that’s mostly because of the people who flock to them rather than the physical landscape itself. I can’t really make comparisons when it comes to the entire shore line since I haven’t ventured further south than South Carolina, nor have I ever been to Malibu. But given, my limited exposure to both beaches, there are certain “cultural charms” the West Coast cannot offer. The West Coast will always be cleaner, less prone to hypodermic needles, and a lot less fist pumping, but isn’t half the fun of going to the beach people watching? So while the west has white sand, superior surfing, and Baywatch, here’s a few things only the Eastern Seaboard has dibs on.


Sure you can find a plethora of pina coladas and bottomless margaritas at any beach bar, but what about if you want to avoid these type of establishments altogether? While BYOB’ing is always handy, (I have a $2 Budweiser cooler for such occasions) sometimes you show up to the beach empty handed and feel a little thirsty. This weekend I was soaking up all the 90’s stylings of my fellow beach goers at Brighton Beach complete with angry sun tattoos, toe rings, and belly button piercings, when I realized I could really use a drink of this point. Unlike a lot of the other New York beaches or the Jersey shore, Brighton Beach and Coney Island are not public parks so you are therefore entitled to booze to your hearts content in public. There were street vendors roaming the beach offering cold “heinies”, Corona, and $3 shots of vodka. Talking about catering to your market. Only in little Russia would they offer ice cold vodka shots on the beach. Those guys really know a way to a girl’s heart.

Road Side Attractions

You’ve got your sunscreen, a beach read, and cooler full of illicit beer, what else is this experience missing? Gators, naturally. While Coney Island has its own freak show, and California has Venice Beach, down south is where the real roadside attractions lie with more Alligator Farms than you can shake a very long stick from afar at. Last time I was in Myrtle Beach, I was getting overheated and the water down there is like a taking a hot bath in June, so I decided to seek out some shade nearby. That’s where I was greeted with big red arrows directing me to Alligator Adventure, now who’s not going to follow a sign that says that? With over 800 gators on the premises, you certainly get your reptile fill. Whether you want to go fully native and sport one of the many Rebel Flag bikinis offered nearby as well, is entirely up to you.

Full Body Spectrum

With the exception of maybe Miami, the East Coast isn’t really known for its perfect beach bodies. Swimsuit season is something I dread each year, and while I piss and moan and lament the amount of bacon, egg, and cheese bagels I’ve consumed, I get to the beach and realize no one gives a shit what I look like. There’s enough body variation to represent the entire American demographic. Every time I’m at a California beach it’s like watching a postcard come to life.  There’s always a vigorous game of beach volleyball with sun-kissed blondes, and perfect butts all around. Where as back home it’s all old Italian guys in speedos and husky women proudly showing off their monokinis. Of course we’re to blame for the Jersey-Shorification of America, and I’m sure the suits over at Hawaiian Tropic self-tan headquarters are just swimming in money, but for every “guidette”, there’s also some pasty person on the beach who doesn’t give a fuck about bump-its or blasting techno from their stereo for that matter. No one is scoping out myself and my friends with the exception of one creepy guy with a ponytail and wrap around shades.


Not everyone wants a history lesson when they go to the beach, but when you get to climb around an abandoned missile site from 1917, it’s definitely a unique experience. Fort Tilden’s military function goes as far back as the War of 1812, but now serves as an urban jungle gym for local kids and curious city folks. Because we were always afraid the Germans were coming, the Eastern Shore is littered with various abandoned military bases for you to explore. The East Coast also serves as a constant reminder of American’s past golden era, when Atlantic City had more parasols than crackheads and Coney Island and Asbury Park were once classy tourist attractions. It’s fun to wander around these areas and try to imagine their former greatness. I can only imagine when future generations look back and see the fading “Shoot the Freak” sign, as a symbol of our culture at the time.

Photos Courtesy of: Session Magazine, Uncoached, Alligator Adventure, The Screaming Room, Brooklyn Vegan

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Laura S - Spendthrift Scribe

Laura S - Spendthrift Scribe

Laura S, left the "sixth borough" three years ago to settle in Brooklyn. After working at some daily rags, she now does writing on the side but still eats more Ramen then necessary. When she's not moving residences every 6 months, eating her way through every neighborhood, and trying every microbrew known to man, she is unsuccessfully rediscovering home economics. With her binging days behind her, she's now exploring new projects and rediscovering the city that she loves (although is still prone to sliding on her knees during a Prince karaoke set).


  1. JR
    July 26, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Gulf Coast–the oceans are too cold and rough.

  2. John
    August 24, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    The East Coast / West Coast beef is as old as time. Tupac / Biggie, NYC / LA, etc. I doubt that this dispute will ever end! But hold on, now we have Melissa / Erica!!! There is ONE thing we can all agree on . . . we ALL love hot chicks in skimpy clothes! I’m just gonna watch that new game show on NBC “Minute to Win It”. I hear they’re settling the beef with an East Coast vs. West Coast Girls of Summer Showdown. 8/7c. I vote we just let hot babes answer the question once and for all.

  3. Lukemh9
    July 2, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    They didn’t have missiles back in 1917, the word you are looking for is artillery. on topic though you can surf on the west coast, the east coast is good for people “watching” (making fun on everyone) 

  4. July 19, 2011 at 12:30 am

    I have lived on both the East and West Coasts extensively. I have lived in the most authentic California Surf City, Encinitas. That is in North San Diego County. I was born and raised in New Jersey, Jersey City to be precise, and enjoyed many summers on the Jersey Shore, and later on Long Island, Montaulk, and the Hamptons.. Later, I lived for several years in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, Florida. 

    There are dramatic contrasts between East and West Coasts Beach Cultures.. First of all, there are dramatic erosion problems all along the California Coast. The cliffs in Encinitas, for example, are collapsing into the Sea, and there is less and less area of sand for going to the beach at all. Then, you must keep in mind that California , especially Southern California, has a much different climate than what is found in most of the Atlantic Coast. This has profound effects on the Beach culture in all of it’s varied manifestations.