By Duffield Osborne

Surf And Surf Bathing 104Surf And Surf Bathing 105

THE popularity of surf-bathing as a sport may be said to be of fairly recent growth in this country. Although few, perhaps, realize the fact, it is nevertheless true that most of the beaches where now the surf curls over networks of life-lines, and where the brown-faced bathing-master lounges, lazy, yet watchful, before hundreds of gayly clad pleasure-seekers, were solitudes but a few years since. The white-topped waves tumbled one after another, unnoticed upon the gray shore; the sea-breeze played only with the rank grasses upon the dunes; while circling gull and tern screamed their confidential communications to each other without fear of being overheard by human eavesdroppers.

Only on Saturdays, at the hour of full tide, did the scene change; and then perhaps a farm-wagon or so rolled heavily down to where the ripples lapped the sand; a stout rope was drawn from its coil under the seats, and tied firmly around the hub and axle; a dilapidated fish-house lent itself for a change of garments, and finally some bronzed ex-whaler, with his bulky strength robed in a flannel shirt, and old trousers tied with ropes at waist and ankles, slipped his wrist through the hand-loop at the free end of the rope, and dragged it out into the surf, - a sort of human anchor-buoy, - while women, children, and less sturdy manhood clung to its now tightening, now slackening length, and sputtered and shrieked over their Saturday bath.

But, passing at a bound from farm-wagon, hand-looped rope, and ex-whaler to the less picturesque, but more effectual, appliances of to-day, the following is by all odds the simplest and best: Two parallel ropes, firmly anchored, and so elevated from the shore as to lie along the surface of the water, are run out to two heavy log-buoys, also anchored, at a distance of seventy-five yards, more or less, according to the character of both beach and surf. Half-way from the shore to the buoys these ropes should be connected by a transverse line, with cork-floats fastened at regular intervals, the distances being such that the cork-line shall rest upon the water some yards beyond the point where the heaviest breakers comb. If placed closer in-shore, it is likely to become a source of serious danger; for diving beneath a heavy wave, and coming up under, or perhaps being thrown with more or less force against, a taut rope or a rough cork-buoy, has been the occasion of many painful hurts; and serious injury can be very readily imagined.

Regard being had to the above caution, this system of life-lines is really safer than much more elaborate contrivances. Women, children, and the inexperienced in general should keep within the rectangle formed by the shore, the long ropes, and the cork-line; and they would, moreover, do wisely to stay near that rope, lying upon the side from which the surf may "set." Then, if swept off their feet, the chances are all in favor of their being carried within reach of some support which will keep them up until assistance can be had. It seems hardly necessary to say that any such complication of lines as is seen at some points of Coney Island, for instance, would be a danger, rather than a safeguard, in any surf heavy enough to "throw" a bather. A word as to bathing-costumes may be of some service here. A man's suit should be of flannel, because that material is both warm and light; it should be made in one piece, sleeveless, reaching just to the knee, belted in at the waist, and, above all, close-fitting.

Surf And Surf Bathing 106

Figure 1.

There are few, nowadays, who do not appreciate the privilege of playing with the Atlantic Ocean; but perhaps there are fewer still who have ever taken the trouble to study the character and humors of their playmate - for he is full of tricks, this same ocean, and his jests are sometimes sadly practical. He is all life and good spirits, the jolliest of jolly company, when he is in the humor; but he must be treated with tact, - tact born of a knowledge of his ways and moods; and, above all, his would-be friends must learn to recognize when he is really angry, and then they must leave him to rave or grumble alone, until boisterous good-nature resumes its sway.

Watch and note the character of the surf and the formation of the beach for a few days; the knowledge gained may be useful. Do you see that line of breakers a quarter of a mile away? There lies the bar; and to-day the surf is heavy enough to break upon it, though the depth there must be at least six feet. Sometimes it is shallower; and, if you are ambitious and - foolish, you can wade and swim out there, and meet the waves first-hand. It is not worth while to run the risk, though: the seas will usually form again long before they reach the shore; and, if you are sensible, you can enjoy them fully as much here as if you had put several hundred yards between yourself and help in the always possible contingency of accident.

No, it is not remarkably rough now; but last week ! you should have been here then. There had been great tumults far out beyond that smoke you see floating above the horizon, where some hidden steamer is ploughing her way through blue water; and the great seas rolled and tumbled upon the bar and broke there, but they had no time to form themselves again. Plunging onward under their own impulse, and beaten out of shape by fiercely thronging successors, they rushed in toward the shore, a seething turmoil of foam, sweeping the sand from one side, and heaping it up on another, - all white above and gray below from bar to beach. Next week there may be scarce a ripple; you would not know there was an outer bar; and the wavelets, as they lap the sand, will seem so placid that you cannot conceive how they could ever have lost their temper.