A weekly column by Catherine Dugan. This week: Beach games
If you’re like most Cape May visitors, you find yourself, at the end of the work week, working hard at playing. You set up a little camp – beach chairs, lunch in a cooler, towels and umbrella – a perfect oasis for sensible adults. Then you ignore it, choosing instead to stand out in the sun and smack a ball back and forth.
You’re not alone, which leads to player trades and mini-tournaments. (Maybe you’ll meet a kindred spirit like Lauren, a Chicago native who is leery of the Atlantic but plays beach games like a native, aiming her “errant” shots nimbly at a “coach” offering advice.) Beach games let friends become family, allow generations to bond, and provide fodder for dinner conversation.
Some of our favorites…
Races All you need are your toes to draw “start” and “finish” lines. Add two buckets, and you’ve got the makings of a relay.
Catch Toss a ball, any ball. Try a simple catch, dodge ball, or monkey-in-the-middle.
Frisbee The beach classic can be enhanced with targets, or adapted to any skill level.
Wiffle Ball Another classic, but possible only on empty stretches of beach. Poverty Beach used to be a great location, but these days large stretches are blocked off for nesting shore birds, and the rest of the beach is ungroomed and a danger to bare feet. (On Memorial Day, there were no lifeguards or bathrooms either, which makes one wonder how the City of Cape May justifies charging for beach access.)
Hillbilly Horseshoes (also known as ladder ball) Bolas – pairs of balls connected by strings – are tossed on a rack. You play to an exact total of 21 points, so strategy comes into play, and less skillful players always have the chance to catch up. You can buy this game, or get some PVC from Swain’s to make your own.
Paddle Ball Two big paddles and a little ball. Draw lines for a court or call everything “in bounds.”
Most games can be adapted to the beach with a little forethought. Keep your tolerance for do-overs handy, as referees are in short supply. Eliminate horseshoes and bocce, which are awkward to carry; and soccer and lacrosse, which require too much space. Avoid the beach entrance and the space in front of the lifeguards, and keep your eyes open. (No matter how careful you are, someone on a cell phone may wander into your play area and get hit with a ball.) Establish your rules, and play ball!
Next week: Prepare the Pooch for Vacation