A Walk on the Edge – Zac Elsinga
Experiencing the Shore
February 7th, 2022
To islands, the water and the shore are the most important, defining features. The landmass of islands relies on these things to exist, and those who live on these islands have much of the same relationship with the water and shore. Historically, many islands used the water around them for both protection and sustenance; in modern times, islands have shifted toward the shore as their principal means of survival. Islands and the beaches have become tourist havens, tourism money has primarily replaced the fisheries, and many once-isolated islands have become globally connected due to tourist desire for the beaches and the waters surrounding them. To the islander, the shore is now both a place of leisure and industry. Islanders also enjoy the same beaches as tourists but are also aware of the importance of the beaches to the island economy. The water once relied upon for much of island life has become joined with the shore; without the water, the shore could not exist, yet it is the shore that tourists wish to see.
Those who live on islands and are inclined can enjoy the shore all year round and take in its beauty in all seasons. Islands in warmer climates may see large numbers of tourists year-round, while islands in cold climates have a tourist season where the bulk of tourist numbers come from. People living on these islands can experience the shore uninterrupted in the off-season. Though it may seem that the allure of the shore may lessen with the loss of comfortable weather and the addition of ice and snow, many islanders still find beauty at the shore. Some islanders will even say that the beach is at its most beautiful in the winter, that the ice and snow add to the rugged landscape and offers a view of the shore that many do not see. In many ways, this is one of the benefits of living on an island year-round; experiencing the island in ways that only islanders can is one of the many ways that those on the island build a sense of islandness. At the same time, many islanders may not visit the store in the winter, those that do often return with photos that allow everyone to view the beauty.
It is clear that to many islanders, the shore is an integral part of both their business and their personal lives. Many view the beach as a place of relaxation and wellness, with the added benefit of beauty. But what of those who dislike the sandy beaches and cold water? I count myself among this number; I find the sand annoying, the water frigid, and the feeling of sunscreen off-putting. Yet I also understand the importance that the shore has to the island and its identity; Prince Edward Island is known throughout Canada for its beaches and relies on this to provide for islanders. On a personal level, the shore is no more important to me than the broken pavement surrounding a puddle, and like the puddle, the coast to me is little more than an inconvenience. My relationship with the shore started, as with most islanders, at a young age, but, unlike most islanders, my relationship was put on hold for years after treading on a razor clam and requiring stitches one summer in 3rd grade. Once I had built up the courage to return to the beach, I found it to be uncomfortable, with sand constantly being blown around and filling any void it could find, be it shoes, pockets, or even snacks. Even in the winter, the sand is lurking just below the ice and snow, waiting to fill your boots with thousands of grains of annoyance.
Along with the sand comes the ocean-going creatures and plant life that was to be avoided at all costs, lest you get stung or pinched. And finally, during the summer, the beaches invite people from all over the country to crowd the shore, making it hard for islanders to partake in the beaches during the best time to do so. While I find the beach to be disagreeable, I understand the feeling of connection that many islanders feel toward the shore, it is the thing that defines us most, and many rely on the income that tourists generate. Truthfully, the beach is just not for me; I do not disparage anyone who does enjoy the shore as the numerous reasons listed above show, the shore is beautiful and is of great benefit to the islanders; it is just that I do not like sand.