Beach vacation guide

From all-to-yourself islands to hidden beach towns to iconic coastal experiences, the West has the beach vacation of a lifetime in store for you

30 iconic beach experiences

Ignite your love for the shore with these classic beach icons. From boardwalks to bonfires, here are our favorite ways to dive in

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Michael Melford


Sunset editor-at-large Peter Fish praises the sport that "gave me back my dignity."

Growing up in a surf town, my inability to stand upright on a surfboard for more than 5 seconds was a mark of shame: a D for Dork tattooed on my forehead. No more. With a bodyboard, I rule the waves.

Just as often termed the Boogie board, the bodyboard could be likened to a sawed-off surfboard. But that description doesn’t do justice to its essence, which is: It is not scary. The surfboard says, “I represent the ancient sport of Hawaiian kings and I will probably not let you stand up on me.” The bodyboard laughs, “Let’s have some fun.”

If you go to a bodyboard shop, like the one I went to one summer day to learn, you’ll hear other reasons it rules over surfing. “Bodyboards can catch waves that are too fast for surfboards,” notes Justin Faulconer, who runs Falcon’s Bodyboard Shop in Encinitas, California. At his shop, you can salivate over rows of neon-bright boards and dream of doing stunts experts do: 360° turns, ARS (that’s a combined “air,” “roll,” and “spin”).

But that’s for later. Right now, you carry your board to the beach. You ease it past the breakers and slide your torso onto its smooth, shiny deck. You point toward shore. A wave rises beneath you, you kick, and wave and board lift you up then shoot you back down in an avalanche of foaming surf, faster than you’ve ever gone in your life, happier than you’ve ever been, while on the beach crowds applaud your graduation from dorkdom. Or so you imagine.


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