From Positano to Bondi, Rio to Miami and Venice, the wildly different beach lifestyles found around the world
“Positano bites deep,” the American novelist John Steinbeck wrote in Harpers Bazaar after a visit to the poor fishing village on Italy’s Amalfi Coast in 1953.
“It’s a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”
It was Steinbeck’s essay that pushed the little hillside enclave, half its population lost in the chase for a better life in the USA in the nineteenth century, back into the modern tourist’s consciousness.
Almost seventy years since Steinbeck stayed at the old manor house converted into the hotel Le Sirenuse, each room with its “its little balcony and looks out over the blue sea to the islands of the sirens from which those ladies sang so sweetly”, Positano has become a byword for a European summer fantasy: the yachts of billionaires filling the harbour and the private beach clubs with their striped orange-and-white umbrellas and matching chaise lounges and trays of deliciously chilled Aperol Spritz and limoncello only a click of the fingers away.
Positano 7 by Remy Gerega.
Displayed here in our white shadow frame finish.
In the starkest contrast to Positano is the egalitarianism of Australia’s Bondi beach, a kilometre-long crescent of white sand and blue water seven kilometres from the heart of Australia’s biggest city, Sydney.
The Aussie Life by Seb Ruiz
Here there are no beach clubs, a recent proposal to shutter a small square of the famous sand for a Positano-style beach club, with an entry fee of eighty-dollars, was shouted down by residents and visitors alike.
One Italian now living in Australia said, “I used to go to Riviera Ligure all the time, where there are rows and rows of private clubs adjacent to each other — and just to go for a swim, you need to find a gap.
Here in Australia, we have that freedom of being able to access the beach, without the hassle and without having to walk through umbrellas and day beds.”
Where Bondi eschews the monied, it celebrates the skilled surfer, the swimmer, the gymnast spinning at its beachfront gymnasium.
Bondi Icebergs Kodak by Richard Silver
Displayed here in our raw oak shadow frame
In Rio, Brazil, a city, a country, obsessed with beauty and health, a vitality encompassing all, its beaches are filled with bodies glistening with sweat, running, surfing, weight-training, jiujitsu, paddle ball, soccer. There is kissing; tequila shots are sold on corners.
Venice Beach I by Laurent Dequick
As a bodybuilder told a visiting reporter from the LA Times,
“On the beach, to have a right to take the sun, I think one has to have a good body. With the young crowd and all, the beach sort of requires it. Even the tourists come expecting to see lots of nice bodies.”
Southern California’s Venice Beach, meanwhile, once the Dogtown of skaters and gangs like the Venice Shoreline Crips and Venice 13, has been gentrified beyond recognition; murder and theft have given way to a tourist hub famous for its four kilometre-long boardwalk populated by various eccentrics, fortune tellers, roller skaters, artists and performers.
Streetballers, skateboarders, surfers complete a busy tableau that feeds the eyes and experience of millions of tourists annually.
Sunset Skater by Camilla Quiddington
Fly across the North American continent to Miami, Florida, specifically South Beach or SoBe…
Fly across the North American continent to Miami, Florida, specifically South Beach or SoBe, for warm water, achingly blue skies, rows of pretty pastel coloured art-deco buildings and William Lane’s famous Lifeguard Towers, built after Hurricane Andrew’s catastrophic blow in 1992.
A reputation as a headquarters for the Scarface lifestyle has long disappeared.
As the Miami New Times posited in 2009, ”Until the 1980s, Miami Beach was a peculiar mix of criminals, Cubans, and little old ladies. Then the beautiful people moved in.”
Pink and White by David Behar
The beach. Either the end of the earth or the very beginning.
A story in every grain of sand. And, wherever you find yourself, whether Positano, Bondi, Rio, Venice or South Beach, for all their differences, there remains one constant:
it’s impossible to refuse the invitation of the sea.