How to be an Aussie beach bum

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When it comes to hanging out at the beach, Aussies have a few unwritten 'rules' of behaviour. To make the most of your visit Down Under, and do a convincing impression of a bona fide Aussie beach bum, here are some helpful pointers:

Beach etiquette

'Thongs' by Johnny Jet. Creative Commons Attribution Licence

  • The most important rule: always head to the edge of the water to shake your towel
  • Leave room between 'camps' (An Australian's personal space is larger than a European's...possibly it's got something to do with this large land of ours. The same goes at the beach.)
  • Don't run in the sand, especially between sunbathers and towels, and never with thongs on (our fine sand tends to stick).
  • Call a thong a thong, not a flip flop.
  • Don't roast yourself for hours. It's true about the hole in the ozone layer above our sunburned country. Melanoma rates are higher here than anywhere else in the world. Sadly, many Aussies ignore this, too.
  • Never leave cigarette butts in the sand. Preferably, don't smoke at all.
  • Don't feed the seagulls - think Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.
  • Don't hook up music machines, be it iPod speakers or (God forbid) eighties-style ghetto blasters.
  • 'Mankinis' are never acceptable. Even budgie smugglers (aka Speedos) only just scrape in. For true Aussie beach cred, stick to cotton 'boardies' (board shorts) instead.
  • Know your lingo - the generic term for any bathing costume/swimsuit/swim wear/trunks is called variously 'swimmers' (Queensland), 'cozzie' (New South Wales) and 'togs' or 'bathers' (Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia).

Beach games you need to master

'Beach cricket' by iokozuna. Creative Commons Attribution Licence

Forget hacky sacks or irritating rubber torpedoes you throw that sound like falling bombs. The long-standing, true dinkum' Aussie game is beach cricket. To join in, you need to know the score:

Beach cricket

  • Use a tennis ball - cricket balls are never (ever) permitted.
  • Keep the fast bowls and big hits to a minimum. Think strategy instead.
  • Welcome any keen member of public - that includes any eager six-year-old.
  • Don't hog the bat - occasionally, pretend to be bowled out by aforementioned six-year-old.
  • Give every team member a bat and a bowl.
  • Fashion wickets out of a boogie board or driftwood (genuine wickets and bails are rarely used).
  • Play only on hard, damp sand and away from crowds.
  • Position one player in the water. (This is for water-bound catches. He or she must always leap sideways into the water. The more dramatically, the better.)
  • Yelling 'Howzat?!' is permissible, but chanting 'Warnie' is not.

Other sports

For non-cricketers, the following beach games are acceptable alternatives:

  • Volleyball: a great game for meeting people, but think twice about sporting eensy-weensy bikinis - these are best left for sunbathing.
  • Tennis ball: the more frayed the ball, the better. Be aware of the odd 'fly-ball' courtesy of 18- to 25-year-old males keen to flaunt their pecs and tattoos.
  • Totem tennis (or modern versions of): a retro-seventies game still popular among the kids.
  • Kites and frisbees: both can be fun, but are no-nos on crowded beaches.

Safety matters: the serious side to beach-going

'Noosa lifeguard' by Christian Haugen. Creative Commons Attribution Licence

  • Visit Surf Life Saving Australia's website (www.sls.com.au).
  • Always swim between the red and yellow flags.
  • Heed warnings: signs, alarms and flags.
  • Ask lifeguards about the local rip and tidal conditions.
  • If you're on an unpatrolled, remote beach, be extra cautious - assume there will be rips and undertows.
  • And finally, to use the words of a former Australian campaign: 'slip, slop, slap - slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen and slap on a hat'.
Now you know how to be an Aussie beach bum, find out where to strut your stuff.