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In Search Of the Perfect Beach Chair

by Jane Kelly

It’s that time of year again. Time to locate the perfect beach chair.

I’ll admit if I took better care of my outdoor furniture I wouldn’t have to purchase a new beach chair every year. But the truth is, although I have found many wonderfully serviceable chairs, I know that beach chair technology is far from perfected. I believe that, like the truth, a better seating option is out there. And I will not rest until I find the one seaside chair that is perfect for me.

Now I am not just any beach chair enthusiast. As a writer, I need a computer to compose, paper to print drafts, and a beach chair to sit in while editing. This is true for me twelve months out of the year – and I do not head south.

Therefore, I classify my interest in the ongoing development of the beach chair as professional. I’m willing to make long trips to novelty shops, department stores, hardware stores, discount houses etc. because the effort is worth it. You never know where the ideal beach chair will surface.

Perfect Beach Chair Qualities

What makes a beach chair perfect?

Basically, the chair must be comfortable and convenient – with slightly more emphasis on convenience. I can deal a lot better with a little discomfort than I can with a comparable amount of inconvenience.

I don’t need a built-in umbrella and an underseat storage area. I want some basic creature comforts in a chair that I can get to the beach without calling Allied Movers for help.

  • First of all I need a strap. After years of finding ways to wedge beach chairs on my shoulder I was thrilled when those who are supposed to be thinking BEACH CHAIR 24-7-365 finally came up with the idea of providing a shoulder strap to make transporting beach chairs to the beach easier. I appreciate those designers who make chairs that fold so small they slip in a bag, but I don’t want to have to invest the time in packing up. A simple strap is fine for me. (Those of you interested slightly more deluxe (read heavier) seating might want look into the chairs that fold down onto wheels.)
  • Because I use the chair as a briefcase, mine must have the pouch thing on the back. I don’t know the official name of the pouch thing – although I suspect it might be the pouch. I can’t live without one. I don’t need a full backpack but I do prefer the deeper pouches. I am always carrying folders and pens and reading glasses with clip-ons, so I need a fair amount of space. A single pouch works – and was a great development. Nonetheless, I hope that those who are supposed to be focusing on BEACH CHAIRS 24-7-365 add utility pockets to the pouches. I am thinking penholders and glass case holders. I suspect the addition of penholders is an unlikely development but I am very hopeful about a slot for my glasses. Everyone takes glasses, i.e. sunglasses to the beach, right? Why not create a slot for them? But an even more likely scenario is that the BC 24-7-365 crowd will see fit to include a cell phone holder. Since the last thing I want on the beach is a cell phone, I’ll just slip my glasses in that pocket. I can be flexible.
  • I am undecided on the high back vs. low back issue. I am sure high back chairs are very comfortable but I suspect that extra height, and weight, could interfere with the convenience angle. Every beachgoer has to make the hard decision I have and define the goals for the all-important beach chair quest. I chose convenience over comfort, but my preference for convenience doesn’t mean that I ignore issues related to comfort.
  • I don’t want my chair to have a bar across the front of the seat. Too often that innocuous little wooden or aluminum tube holding the canvas in place becomes a source of discomfort. I prefer a chair where the canvas is stretched from side to side so my legs don’t have to rest on a hard cylinder. Okay, how rough is that? I know. Not very. But remember, although I said I was more concerned about convenience, I never said I wasn’t somewhat of a weenie about comfort. I am.
  • That’s why the beach chair of my dreams has arms. Preferably wide arms. Wide wooden arms that do not grow so hot in the sun that they burn my skin. Smooth wide wooden arms without grooves to leave marks on my arms. And in one of those arms, I need the most important thing of all. A cup holder. If cup holder positioning is a key consideration when purchasing a car – and statistics say it is -- should the cup holder be any less important when buying a beach chair? You’re hoping for a lot of sun. You’re going to get thirsty. You need a cup holder.
  • I like my beach chair to be low to the ground. I love sitting at the water’s edge, letting the waves roll over my feet and chasing the tide as it goes out – or letting it chase me as it comes in. I would just like to mention, however, for the sake of those who have aged a bit since the last trip to the beach, the need for rehearsal. Getting into a low chair – sand chair, water chair, whatever you call them – is easy. Getting out? That is something all together different. Don’t find yourself in the position of having to roll onto your hands and knees in front of friends, family and strangers simply to get out of your chair -- or of being forced into the other option, waiting until darkness falls. Trust me. Acknowledge the need for practice and put in the time. It’s a good investment.

As an aside, this might be a good time to mention those storage compartments tucked away under the seat of some beach chairs. I applaud the design effort – especially since the seat provides shade for those items that melt or evaporate in the sun. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to have a pouch on the back and a compartment under the seat. But I have to consider a few of my own traits. I like to sit in the water. I tend to be a bit absent minded. You see where this is going. So let me just say, if you opt for an underseat storage compartment, remember that you used the space before you plop your chair in the water.

I should mention that I did not discuss recliners because I have no need to recline in my beach chair. Reclining chairs look great but I can’t help thinking how hard it was to get them to the beach – especially without wheels. If I get tired I lay on my towel – which I carry to the beach tucked into the seat of my folded-up, strapped-on, beach chair. Of course it’s important to get just the right towel . . . one that’s wide enough, long enough, soft enough and folds into a small enough packet. But that’s a discussion for another day. Right now I have to get going. I am on mission. I am in search of the perfect beach chair.

Jane Kelly is the author of three mysteries with a humorous twist set at the Jersey shore.

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