Nearly all people from all walks of life have flocked to the seaside for various reasons. Some just go there for amusement, others would want to explore the waves, and other may want renewal and reflection. The reasons are endless. But centuries or even thousands of years ago, people didn’t like the sea that much. One of the earliest descriptions of the coastal landscape was scary and perilous, where shipwrecks and natural disasters occurred. But now, the beach is synonymous with vacation. What happened?
The Bible is one of the earliest references to the sea. The oceans were portrayed as mysterious and destructive. The Book of Genesis described the ocean as a “great abyss.” According to Alain Corbin, author of “The Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World, 1750-1840," Roman poets Horace and Ovid and philosopher Seneca were said to have despised the ocean as an unsociable” force that kept men apart. He added, “the classical period knew nothing of the attraction of seaside beaches, the emotion of a bather plunging into the waves, or the pleasures of a stay at the seaside.”
The beach transformed from being a dangerous place to preferred vacation following the, following the early European discovery of the beach and during the rise of the urban, industrial society. The VIPs during this time, such as Roman Emperors Nero and Augustus build summer houses in the Bay of Naples, Italy. Later on, this place became a venue for imperial indulgence and hedonism.
French poetry began describing the sea in a more favorable manner. Around the 17th century, Dutch seascape paintings started to attract tourists to seaside towns.
According to Corbin, the European elites began to promote the therapeutic effect of fresh air, physical activity, and sea bathing. In Britain, home of the Industrial Revolution, aristocrats, and intellectuals became engrossed with their own health and hygiene. While the working class was viewed as more physically fit, the upper class seems to be more fragile. Hence, the concept of the restorative sea was born. England’s first seaside resort was opened in the tiny town of Scarborough. Later on, other coastal neighborhoods follow. This is to accommodate sea bathers for treatments for some conditions like leprosy, gout, melancholy, impotence, menstrual problems and many more.
Seaside resorts began springing up in many places in Europe – Normandy, southwestern France, northern Germany and Scandinavia. It then started to spread all over America by the late 19th century – first, to the coast of New England, then to the Mid-Atlantic to the South.
During the 20th century and beyond, beach resorts along the coasts of North and South America has increased. Wearing of modern swimwear began in the 1920s. Brazil's Copacabana became popular in the 1930s, with its ultra-glam Copacabana Palace as one of its most popular resorts which even attracts celebrities like Brigitte Bardot and Mariah Carey. In 1946, French engineer Louis Réard introduced the modern type of two-piece swimsuit at a Paris swimming pool. The name bikini originated from Bikini Atoll, a nuclear weapon test site. This was because he anticipated that the two-piece would make an “atomic” impact. In the 1950s, France's west coast beach called Montalivet had their first nudist beach goers and sun-worshipers. The southern California boarding culture started in the 1960s. It was in the 1970s when French Polynesia lured travelers by its outrageous amenity: overwater bungalow. It was in 1988 when Phuket, Thailand became one of Southeast Asia’s prime destinations when Amanresorts opened Amanpuri there. The Caribbean island destinations, especially Jamaica became more popular in 1992.