It seems like every year, I buy a new round of beach equipment: flip-flops, bags for carrying stuff, folding chairs — even new covers for the collapsible awning. This year, I’m looking for stuff that will last, especially since we’re keeping the family vacation close to home and close to the water.
Randall Engstrom of Randall’s Sandals in Pacific Beach (619-241-6138) spoke up for Olukai sandals. “Olukai works with the Hawaiian Lifeguard Association to develop these; the lifeguards wear them while protecting people. The brand’s founder came out of Nike’s biomechanics division; he made sure that they have good arch support, proper heel-cup placement, and good toe-lift. And those are the three key features for maintaining proper foot structure. Most Olukai sandals are water-friendly, but they do have some lovely Polynesian stitching and fine leather craftsmanship.” Olukai sandals start at $65 and go up from there. Engstrom carries nine styles for men and nine for women. “They come with a one-year warranty, but they’ll last you longer than that,” said Engstrom. And if you start hankering for something new before they wear through, “I encourage people to bring in their old shoes. I recycle them or distribute them to San Diego’s needy. In return, I give the customer a discount on a new pair.”
Shoes covered. What about wheels? “Invest in a good collapsible beach wagon,” advised my friend Shirley. “I got the Quest Folding Utility Beach Wagon at Dick’s Sporting Goods in El Cajon (619-447-0191) for $99.99. It folds open or closed easily, and it’s lightweight but sturdy. I really load it up, and it takes it just fine. I like the way the mesh bottom lets sand fall through. And speaking of sand, my favorite thing is the big plastic wheels that don’t sink into the sand. The double cup holder is a bonus; sometimes I like to have a beverage while I watch the waves.”
Shirley suggested that while I was at Dick’s, I consider picking up the SKLZ Sport-Brella XL ($69). “It’s so much more compact and easy than one of those ‘easy-up’ awnings. It works as a ground shelter or a telescoping umbrella and comes with steel ground stakes and tie-downs in case you want to make it into a proper shelter.”
“You need a good beach chair,” said Zoe. “At a certain age, it’s just not fun anymore to beach-read while lying down, and I need some better neck support just to watch the ocean waves. So I invested in the Helinox Beach Chair [$149.95] from REI in Clairemont [858-279-4400]. I love the supportive back and neck-rest, and the storage sack converts into a pillow. And the mesh back and sides keep me from getting sweaty and sticking to the fabric. It’s lightweight and super compact when you break it down, which is key for beach visits.”
“You need pony rides,” said my daughter. Come again? “Pony rides.” I had no idea. But if you’re looking for something special, Pony Land San Diego Beach Rides (619-947-3152) has your beachy beast of burden. (A horse, not a pony. They do have pony rides for little kids, but not on the beach.) Their seashore ride takes you to the southernmost beach in California, close to the border fence, as the waves lap at your horse’s hooves. A two-hour private, guided tour through a nature preserve with 30 minutes on the beach runs $100 per rider. (Three hours with 60 minutes on the beach, $135.) And if you’re feeling particularly bold, you can sign up for the Swim Adventure, which guides riders and their horses into the waves to chest depth. (The horse’s chest, not the rider’s.) You’ll both get wet, so it’s perfect for a hot day. Three-hour tour with 60 minutes on the beach, $150 per rider. Finally, if you want to ride off into the sunset, you can take the Sunset Beach Ride: 2.25-hour ride with 45 minutes on the beach, $110 per rider. The ride is timed so that the sun goes down while you’re on the trail home, so there’s no need to worry about the dangers of an after-dark ride.