Life's a Beach

The sun, rising slowly above the coastal mountains, casts its rays upon the shoreline of Southern California. The Pacific Ocean is "glassy" and reflects the pink sky of dawn. A group of surfers is already in the water enjoying another successful dawn patrol. Shorebirds dart around in the foam of the receding tide in search of food in the sand.

As the sun climbs up into the sky, human activity increases. The thumping of volleyballs is heard as they are passed and spiked in friendly and heated competition alike. The asphalt paths that border the sands begin to fill up with in-line skaters, bikers, joggers, and others out for a stroll by the sea where dolphins are visible playing offshore, their fins gently arcing above the water's surface as they wander the coast.

As the sun climbs still higher, the air temperature heats up. It is now well into the PTH, Peak Tanning Hours. Groups of people stake out territory with blankets and towels. Their portable audio systems create an eclectic mix of sounds as one strolls the beach. Yet it all is dwarfed by the rhythm of the ocean.

The wind begins to pick up and the sky fills with bright colors as kites dart and weave in the onshore breeze. The same wind, creating a choppy ocean, sends the surfers to shore to be replaced by their sailing cousins, windsurfers. Farther out to sea, sailboats tack and jibe en route to offshore islands where many will don scuba equipment to view the world of wonder that exists beneath the ocean's surface.

Now, the sun is finishing its day's journey through the Southern California sky. A kayaker can be seen returning from a fishing trip at a nearby kelp bed. A spout of water spits skyward, revealing the location of a migrating gray whale. The wind is breathing its last breaths and the Pacific looks like molten mercury reflecting the oranges, yellows, and reds of the setting sun. A surfer shares a last wave during this glass-off with a squadron of pelicans that glide effortlessly on a cushion of air above the wave. Reaching shore, the surfer grabs the board and looks back to sea. The sun has dropped beneath the horizon and the sky is alight in neon-pink fire as the day's last light hits clouds high overhead. The surfer heads back home to the sound of a quiet beach, just the slow building and release of noise from the waves.

The sound of the ocean . . .breathing.

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