Dr. Beach Has the Best Job in the World

Dr. Beach cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

The man who has the best job on the planet is Stephen Leatherman. He goes by a different name professionally—Dr. Beach—and he has made it his job to travel around the country looking for the best beach in America. When he finds it, he pounces. His marketing wheels begin to turn and out go press releases, announcements and speeches. He has found the best beach in the country.

Dr. Beach has strict standards by which he measures beaches. He considers the color and the graininess of the sand. He considers access, beauty and seaweed, the thunderousness of the waves, the gentleness of the breezes, the cleanliness and stateliness of the facilities, if any, the lifeguards, the presence or absence of creatures great and small that might bite or be endangered. Flies and mosquitoes count. Among his other criteria, he also considers the temperature and color of the sea.

Now, there is no doubt in my mind that the great ocean beaches that have blessed the shoreline for miles and miles along the southern coast of the Hamptons are the best in the country.

I have traveled much of the world—though not as much as Dr. Beach—and that is my conclusion. The water is too cold and the sand too hard along the Pacific. The sea is not dramatic enough in the Gulf of Mexico. Ocean beaches in Florida and New Jersey are not broad enough. The Outer Banks of North Carolina measure up in a number of ways but are too remote. New England beaches are nice but the water is cold. And the Jersey Shore might be okay for Snooki and Bruce Springsteen, but really, those beaches are usually gated, shallow and crowded. Trash is a big problem there. Silly me.

Well, you might think that Dr. Beach would go around and rate all the beaches and declare a winner, and that would be that. But he didn’t just do that when he found his first winner. That year, 27 years ago, he named the top beach, decided he liked doing it, and so decided he would do the same thing every year and announce a winner every year, in the same way that the Academy Awards announces a Best Picture winner every year.

Dr. Beach seems to suggest there are nuances in the top beaches in America that move a beach up or down a notch from year to year, or even off the top 10 and then back onto it.

For example, Cooper’s Beach won his award for the Best Beach in America in 2010, I think it was, but then has played nip and tuck on the top 10 since then, two years ago not on it at all, and then last year at #8.

In addition to deciding all this, Dr. Beach also made it a rule that if a beach achieved the ranking of #1 in the country in a particular year, then it would not be eligible to be #1 again. And so East Hampton’s Main Beach achieved the ranking of #1 one year. But then two years ago and last year, well, it’s just not on it at all. What is it? Something with the piping plovers? They poop on his head?

Over these 27 years, Dr. Beach has declared the best beach of the year to be a particular beach in the Hamptons, Hawaii, Florida, California or the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The current champ is Hanauma Bay, in Oahu, Hawaii. The kiss of death. None of these beaches can ever again be ranked #1 again.

I hold no grudge against Stephen Leatherman. He has written or edited 16 books. He’s advised billionaires on where to buy the best islands. He’s monitored global warming.

I am just jealous. What a wonderful way to spend your life, earning a living spending days at the beach. Last time I looked, he was Professor and Director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. All power to him.

Meanwhile, out east, he needs to rate Napeague, Cupsogue, Ponquogue, Quogue, Indian Wells Beach, Sagg Main and Montauk. And if he ever gets tired of all the traveling around, he can declare these to be winners in particular years without ever having to get on an airplane.

And when he runs out? Time to retire. And go to, uh, the mountains.

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