Ocracoke was recently named the number one beach in America.
I hardily agreed with the award. Ocracoke is one of my favorite spots, and I have fond memories of the campground there.
Still I have been thinking about developing my own beach rating system. What with all the iPhone hype and the proliferation of iPods, it might be time to come up with a new rating system.
Actually the last time I visited Ocracoke was in the summer of 2004 while Apple was dreaming up a reason for me to exit the company.
Just days earlier I had been with Avie Tevanian bailing him out on a call to the CIO for the federal government. Avie had told her that she needed to have people create custom software with Apple products.
She had responded by saying that she only wanted the government to buy off the shelf software and that why should she believe that Apple cared about her business when all that you heard about from Apple was iPods?
At that point I had stepped in and talked about the benefits of operating system diversity in the federal enterprise.
Focusing on iPods was certainly good for Apple, but it was a missed opportunity for the federal government to reduce its dependence on Microsoft.
In early July 04 just after that meeting, my wife I headed over to Nags Head and down across the Oregon Inlet Bridge through Hatteras to Ocracoke Island.
I was actually looking to Ocracoke's isolated beaches for some relaxation. I don't remember seeing a single iPod, but I would be surprised if they haven't made it there by now.
Ocracoke it turned out was pretty warm and crowded on that visit. We enjoyed the beaches, unwound a little, but with an axe positioned over my neck, decided to head home early. By the first of the next week I was no longer an Apple employee.
I have not been back to Ocracoke since then. The reason has nothing to with Apple.
We have just found a better spot on North Carolina's coast. Places, like the Shackleford Banks, along the Southern Outer Banks or SOBX, as they are known locally, are often even nicer than Ocracoke, mostly because you can only get to them by boat.
Last night as we were walking on the beach at Emerald Isle, I started counting iPods while I was cooling my feet in the surf. Fortunately there were so few that I could focus more on waves than on iPods.
I came up with three iPods in the approximately one hundred or so people we saw in an hour stroll down the beach. About 25 of those people were in a single strange group walking down the beach in a knot, many of them holding coffee cups like they had just gotten up from the dinner table. My guess is that they came from a couple of the large rental homes or sand castles as we call them.
Based on my iPod beach rating system I would give the beach by Emerald Isle's eastern access point a 97% pure rating. If I had gone farther down the island, I suspect that I would have found the rating jumping to 100% at the western regional access point or my favorite, the Third Street Beach.
I know the beach just off shore of Emerald Isle's point or the one at Shackleford Banks would have hit perfect scores. Who would be crazy enough to haul an iPod to an offshore beach?
I think I might suggest to the town manager that they post signs like "During the last week 99% of the people on this beach were not listening to their iPods."
The iPods don't really get under my skin that much, mine certainly allowed me to tune out a number of cross country air line flights.
I do worry iPod listening beach goers are missing the point of coming to the beach. I guess if you are running on the beach, and listening to your iPod is part of your running routine, we could grant an exemption, but still part of the beach experience is soaking up the sound of the environment.
Music has been a part of beaches for years, but ear buds to shut out the sounds of the waves seem almost as wrong as cell phones which should probably be included in the rating system.
Of course we are about to blur that line between cell phones and iPods. I wonder if I should heavily weight iPhones in the beach rating system. After all, those first iPhone purchasers are going to be the trendiest of the trendy.
Anyone who will sit in a line in NY City for over 24 hours to buy consumer electronics needs help that cannot be found on the beach.
Some of them just might care more about being seen with the iPhone than seeing what the waves are doing.
My suggestion, leave the computers, the iPods, and iPhones home and try to soak up the atmosphere of the beach, one of the few places (at least it is still possible along our SOBX beaches) that you can retreat from the pressures of modern life.
Ocracoke's beaches helped me survive 2004, see what the Carolina beaches can do for you in 2007. After all some papers are suggesting that by 2080, the beaches will be gone.
I wonder if Apple will still be around?