What qualifies as a beach for Beaches On The Air?
Defining what qualifies as a beach is extremely important for the success of Beaches On The Air, yet it can be difficult and controversial. What is a beach for us? The answer to this question not only clarifies the rules of the game for players, but also defines the identity of our programme, and differentiates it from other alternatives. But at the same time this question may become a source of conflict, not only between competitors, but also between administrators, because in any club there is always a trade-off between selectiveness and inclusiveness. Finding the right balance is of key importance, and no particular choice will ever please everyone.
In order to avoid this type of conflict, we started our programme relying mostly on external sources, such as beach lists by public environmental protection agencies or tourist promotion organisations. The problem with that approach is that, in many countries, such lists are not readily available, are incomplete, or merely reproducing them can create copyright issues. An alternative consiting in the transfer of beach creation power to a selected group of participants can also be very controversial, because of different standards applied or the criteria used for selecting such individuals. Fortunately, our system has evolved in such a way in which many of these problems no longer matter so much.
The reason why beach lists are not so critical in our programme is because it is focused on amateur radio on the beach rather than on the exploration or accummulation of different beaches. In our programme you can activate the same beach as many times as you wish, and you get your points from chaser-confirmed communications rather than from travelling to different locations. This feature reduces conflict about beach lists but does not eliminate it altogether.
Even if what matters is radio activity from the beach rather than the activation of different beach references, it is still important to delimit what qualifies as a beach. A strip of land on a shore covered by sand or pebbles washed by tides or waves can mean many different things for different people. Sources of disagreement include whether only the shores of oceans should be included, or also those of large rivers and lakes, and in the latter case how large the lake or river should be, or the nature and origin of the sediments its shore is composed of. In most cases, however, the concept of beach is rather clear and reflected by the proper name of the place in question as it appears on maps.
On occasion, controversy arises from the dependence on external lists that have not been designed for beaches specifically. For instance, lists based on extraction points for bathing water quality samples need not correspond to proper beaches. Similarly, although some beaches may be registered as public parks, not all public parks need to qualify as beaches even if they are by the shore. This makes it unavoidable for us to be able to maintain our own beach lists and to establish the criteria for inclusion on those lists.
Is it a strip of land on a shore covered by sand or pebbles? Are those sediments the result of tides or waves? Does it appear on official beach lists? Does it have the term beach in its proper name? Does it appear on maps as a beach? What do people usually do in that place? Why have you chosen this particular place for your activation, because you wanted to do amateur radio from the beach or because it is referenced by a different programme and you think it might also qualify as a beach? Can the beach be seen on a satellite image from Google Maps? This is just an example of the kinds of questions that you may ask yourself when trying to find the right place for your amateur radio operation.
Luckily enough, our system has evolved in such a way that it currently allows the activation of unlisted beaches. Our activation announcement form includes fields for participants to post the details of unlisted beaches. These include the proper name of the beach, its location co-ordinates, pictures and videos taken on the day of the activation. All this information remains available for any other user to review, including those responsible for the creation of new beach listings. However long that review procedure may take, it will not affect your activation code or chaser reports. So go ahead and start activating for Beaches On The Air!