Odd question about flip flops...
June 2, 2014 11:07 AM   Subscribe

We are currently vacationing on the Gulf in Alabama and have noticed something odd. We are staying at a very large condo complex and a significant number of people leave their flip flops/shoes at the end of the dock before they slog with their stuff to the waterfront. This isn't a short walk and some of these shoes are expensive. It's odd to me that people wouldn't just wear their footwear to their claimed spot on the beach. Is this a regional thing? I've seen a few pairs left at the end of the boardwalk on my native Georgia and Florida beaches but never in these numbers. Any clue? Thanks.
posted by pearlybob to Grab Bag (24 answers total)
Walking in sand in flip flops is really unpleasant. The backs of the shoes become little shovels that fling sand at you as you walk. That's why I usually ditch them to walk barefoot on the sand to my beach spot.
posted by fancypants at 11:11 AM on June 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

Probably because walking barefoot in the sand is one of the best feelings ever and there are still parts of the world where you don't have to worry about people stealing your sandals.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:14 AM on June 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

I grew up vacationing in rented condos on the Gulf in Alabama (Gulf Shores, mostly) and do not remember this being a thing at all. That said, it doesn't mean it hasn't become a thing in the decade or so since I've been there.

I definitely don't remember any fear of theft when it comes to stuff and the beach along the "redneck riviera"*, in the way that I tend to be conscious of it as an adult going to beaches in the Northeast or the Los Angeles area. Especially with minor personal effects like shoes, towels, etc. This would be especially true if you're referring to a more secluded area of beach for private vacation rentals and not a large hotel or an area on the beach where the general public tends to congregate. People there probably just don't feel particularly worried about someone stealing their flip flops.

*Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coasts, and the Florida panhandle.
posted by Sara C. at 11:15 AM on June 2, 2014

Discussing this question and the great answers so far by the pool and my 14 yr old daughter walks up. After a minute, she declares she has to go get her shoes, she left them at the end of the boardwalk!! Maybe a generational thing?
posted by pearlybob at 11:19 AM on June 2, 2014

I have vacationed there many times, seen this behavior every time, and engaged in it myself every time. Commenters above have it right: walking in sand in flip-flops sucks and there's no fear of theft, so why not do it?
posted by komara at 11:26 AM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

It would never occur to me to be worried about someone stealing my used footwear at the beach. Would you want to wear some stranger's sandals? Neither would they probably want to wear yours.. And it's not like they could turn them around for cash on the flourishing flip-flop resale market..
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:27 AM on June 2, 2014 [14 favorites]

Funny, I do the same in MI.
posted by cecic at 11:40 AM on June 2, 2014

I would add to the above comments that there is a "social norm" aspect of it. Other people are doing it so why wouldn't you? (That said I am very nervous about things getting stolen so I probably would bring my flip flops with me.)
posted by radioamy at 11:48 AM on June 2, 2014

Jut one more thing to throw out as an Alabamian that grew up not wearing shoes much anywa; the "sugar sand" beaches don't get hot like other (lesser) beaches so it's actually a lot more pleasant to walk barefoot there.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:54 AM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a datapoint, this isn't common in Massachusetts. Most people take their sandals with them.
posted by kinetic at 11:57 AM on June 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Growing up in MI, it was not uncommon to leave flip flops at the edge of the beach to then walk on the sand barefoot. Now, living in L.A., we take off the flip flops, walk on the sand barefoot, and then use the flip flops to weigh down the corners of the big beach sheet/blanket thing. I wouldn't ever worry about having the flip flops stolen, but it is nice to have them to weigh things down so they won't blow away.
posted by The World Famous at 12:05 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've seen people leave them in various beaches up the east coast, NJ/Md/Va/NC --- but I've seen maybe a third wear their flip flops to their beach spot, and another third take them off & carry them. I'd call it more personal preference than anything else.
posted by easily confused at 12:11 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Voting for "ugh, flip flops in sand are hard work!"
(Also, your flip flops may wait in line for you, but they won't shuffle forwards on their own. Unless they're, like, sentient.)
posted by Omnomnom at 12:28 PM on June 2, 2014

We don't have beaches in Arizona but we have lots of water parks, and usually everyone leaves their flip-flops in piles near whatever pool or slide they are using. I used to think "huh, what if someone has expensive ones and somebody steals them?" and honestly I can easily imagine some idiot (probably a teenager) taking someone else's flip flops without a thought (couldn't find theirs, whatever) but it hasn't personally happened to me. My "solution" to this fear is to leave the cool Havianas at home and wear the $3 Old Navy flips to the water park.
posted by celtalitha at 12:28 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

//As a datapoint, this isn't common in Massachusetts.//

Well, that brown sand in Massachusetts will leave a 2nd degree sunburn on your feet if you aren't careful. I'm looking at your Hampton Beach.
posted by COD at 12:28 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I do it so I don't get sand in my shoes. I guess sometimes I carry them, but I do take them off to walk in the sand in any case.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:29 PM on June 2, 2014

I've always taken off my flip flops when I get to the edge of the sand, then carry them with me to where I put down my blanket and towel. It would not occur to me to leave them at the end of the boardwalk, nor have I seen anyone do that in NJ.
posted by mermayd at 12:40 PM on June 2, 2014

Long Island, NY -on "private" beaches (Fire Island towns, like Davis Park, Watch Hill, Kismet, Saltaire, etc.), shoes are left. General beaches, like Long Beach, Jones, Beach, Robert Moses, etc., they are carried with you to where you set up.
posted by kellyblah at 12:59 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Louisianian here. I've done it to not track sand. Clean flip flops mean less sand in car.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:51 PM on June 2, 2014

I always take off my shoes and leave them at the edge here in NH's Hampton Beach and other sandy beaches. I'd rather know that they won't get picked up by waves if I leave them too close to the tideline. Once I came back to somebody taking very artistic photos of my flip flops which were rather nicely arranged near some picturesque rocks and beach grass.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:54 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Well, that brown sand in Massachusetts will leave a 2nd degree sunburn on your feet if you aren't careful.

Same with that white hot white Miami Beach sand on the hard bit just after the dunes...
posted by Dragonness at 2:14 PM on June 2, 2014

Just remember, if you start leaving yours at the dunes also, be sure to turn them upside down! The hot sun will make them impossible to wear back home if you don't.
posted by raisingsand at 4:26 PM on June 2, 2014

I just got back from our Gulf Shores trip, staying a condo for the eighth year in a row. When I first started going I kept my shoes with me, but the combination of seeing all those shoes and realizing that the sand is not too hot to walk on barefoot, lead all of us to joining in the to pile of shoes at the end of the boardwalk. I have never had a problem with shoes not being there, but man, in the middle of the day that boardwalk gets super hot, I would be very sad if my shoes were gone! The other thing that was very odd to me was that all our gear could be left on the beach overnight - toys, chairs, you name it, have never had any trouble, just make sure it's far enough up to not be carried away by the tide.
posted by dawg-proud at 6:06 PM on June 2, 2014

This happens at the Jersey Shore, on Long Beach Island, at least at the accesses to the beach I've used -- people will leave their sandals and flip flops on the street side of the dune barrier. I generally take mine with me but it's more force of habit than fear of theft.
posted by Devoidoid at 8:06 AM on June 3, 2014

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