Zen and the Art of Beach Bumming

It’s not easy being a beach bum. There’s a skill to it, for sure, and it’s not an easily acquired skill. Truth be told, it’s a rare art.

Years of practice, repetition, and more practice and more repetition are required before you can even modestly claim to be approaching beach bum status.

The ultimate aim is to be good at doing nothing, well, nothing much, but retaining a sense of what everyone else around you – from Beijing to Busselton – is doing, preferably without them knowing you know, or care.

There’s something of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Persig’s famous 1974 philosophical inquiry about life, in the beach bummer approach to things. Pirsig seeks to convey the experience of being fully in the world, without the mediation of devices that filter reality, ‘smoothing its rough edges for our psychic comfort’, as Smithsonian Magazine put it.

There’s also something of Mark Manson’s best-selling The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life in the art of beach bumming. As The Subtle Art’s cover blurb says, Manson ‘cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.’

While there are some fully qualified beach bums to be found around Freo’s northern and especially southern beaches, many would-be beach bums setting out to discover the rare art often find their way to places further afield – like Cable Beach, Broome.

But who exactly qualifies as a beach bum?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines a beach bum as someone who spends most of his or her time having a good time on the beach. The trouble with this definition, though, is that it fails to encapsulate the essentially careless and carefree, but quietly watchful, nature of the beach bum.

Most casual beach bum observers note that a beach bum is not necessarily a homeless or unemployed person; that they can be rich or poor; and may be older or younger. Surfer.com suggests the beach bum hankers for a hedonist lifestyle that makes beaches the ultimate feel-good playground and sanctuary of happiness. Put pithily, they assert the beach bum life is ‘simple and casual and generally idle, inactive, lethargic, and lazy’. Well, that’s part if it. But not the whole.

Surflegacy.com similarly observes beach bums come from all walks of life – from students to retirees, from career professionals to stay-at-home parents. While some beach bums may be working, they say, their primary purpose is to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy some time with nature. They recognise beach bums may also spend their time fishing, surfing and snorkelling, as well as just lounging in the sun. Getting closer.

Forgetting the stress of everyday life is certainly the common denominator in most accounts of a beach bummer’s life. But it’s really more studied than just that. It’s turning off but remaining in touch, and being prepared to surface if and when required.

Cable Beach, Broome is a great place to acquire beach bum skills, to pursue a beach bum life if not all the time then for significant periods.

Famed for its Wet seasons and particularly its Dry seasons, its high and low tides, its rocky red cliffs and its fabulous sunsets, Cable Beach is around 22 kilometres long. Those arriving in their 4x4s before the sun sets often explore its full length. Many others are happy to enjoy what’s on offer from the lifesaver patrolled beach immediately in front of the Sunset Bar of the Cable Beach Club and Resort. To the beach bum it really doesn’t seem to matter what your vantage point.

During the day, budding beach bums and fully qualified ones can be found here and there working on their beach bum skills, discovering the rare art.

Try it sometime!

Words and photographs of Cable Beach, Broome by Michael Barker, Editor, Fremantle Shipping News


* If you’d like to COMMENT on this or any of our stories, don’t hesitate to email our Editor.


*** And don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to receive your free copy of The Weekly Edition of the Shipping News each Friday!

****AND Shipees, here’s how to ORDER YOUR FSN MERCH. Fabulous Tees with great options now available!