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Dung Beach

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I’m in line at the Circle K ten miles south of Sulphur, Louisiana. The woman behind the counter is smoking a cigarette. The woman in front of me is buying two quarts of vodka. It’s 10:45 on a Sunday morning. With a new-to-me 9’8″ Tyler noserider strapped to the roof of my car, I’m smiling. In less than an hour, I’ll be out in the lineup at Dung Beach. 

Crowds are never a problem. I remember one day during Spring Break 1977 when there were four guys out. Maybe it’s because it’s nasty.  The “water” stains your trunks and keeps your boards nice and slick. Balls of tar get stuck in your hair and to your feet. Did I mention the mud bottom?

It has been 16 years since my last visit, when a hurricane swell washed over the coastal road. The alligators scared my wife so bad she refused to get out of the van. At night, you can see their eyes in the coulee that runs along the dirt road leading to the beach.

The Holly Beach water tower is still here. The pier is gone. It wasn’t really a pier as much as the remains of one that boat crews used to shuttle workers to-and-from the oil rigs. Nutria burgers, called “the other white meat,” are still the local favorite. Yesterday’s lunch special was alligator po’boys. The sand looks whiter without all the cow shit. The cows are gone, too. It seems gentrified. There are houses now, built in the dunes where we used to camp. And you can’t drive on the beach anymore.  

One other car is parked along the road. Before I even get in the water, it peels away and the beach is empty. There’s a reason no one is here. Knee-high, occasionally waist-high lefts and rights break between the rocks that have been laid in the surf for protection against erosion. The wind is light and slightly offshore. It’s about as good as Dung Beach gets.

The taste and smell of saltwater has been replaced with oil and mud. My wax turns slick, then liquefies in the heat. But my new board is baptized. As I scrub-dry off, I start to get concerned about the water I might have ingested. After driving three more hours to get home—feeling nauseated and exhausted—Galveston feels like Hawaii.

Feature image: photograph by Arthur Belala/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.