Activation zone: What is amateur radio 'from the beach'?

Formal rules vs the importance of a beach experience
Last modified: 
28 July, 2023 - 11:26

Beaches On The Air is a global award scheme for radio amateurs that promotes portable operation from beaches, and we have already discussed what qualifies as a beach for us, but what does 'from the beach' mean? Do you need to operate portable from the sand? Can you operate from a vehicle parked by the beach? What does by the beach mean?

Defining the activation zone for a beach is as important as defining a beach for the success of our programme, and yet it can also be a complex issue that may become a source of controversy 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. But reviewing the principles of our programme may help us find some common ground.

The beach is both in the title and in the slogan of our programme. Combining amateur radio with the beach may have a number of advantages for those who operate from the beach, for those who contact them from home and for society at large. A beach is an ideal place for amateur radio due to its closeness to a large mass of salty water, as shown repeatedly by fellows of the Real HF Mobile group that break records by operating from sea shores. A beach is also a beautiful place to visit that can encourage radio amateurs to get out of their shack and top up their vitamin D levels. A beach is also generally accessible to people from all ages and conditions, at least as compared to a mountain peak. But the advantages of amateur radio from the beach are not limited to activators.

Those who contact a beach from home also enjoy the beach experience. A beach is a beautiful and even exotic place for many, and a QSO with a fellow radio amateur operating portabe from a beach is an opportunity to travel with your mind to that place even if you are a chaser opperating from your shack. You just have to recall the feeling you experience when you work a IOTA island or when you receive a QSL card with the picture of a beach. Amateur radio from the beach can also promote tourism, beach preservation or any other purposes that go beyong the activator and chaser making a QSO.

We ask activators to document their beach experiences with their written remarks, with their pictures and even with their own recorded videos. Chasers, sponsors and visitors enjoy these a lot, as stated above, but activators themselves, their friends and families can enjoy them too. A picture or a video of your activation can be a good memory for you down the line, but also for your friends and family, of even for your chasers' friends and family. I recall a message now from the son of a silent key thanking me when he found a video of a QSO between me and his late father. The point is that documenting your beach experience can be important for you and others in ways you cannot possibly imagine now.

But what is a beach experience? What are the boundaries of a beach? What are the rules? So far, we have just stated that our programme promotes amateur radio 'from the beach', that you needn't be on the sand but can even operate from a bench on a promenade, from your car parked by the beach or even from a hotel room or your beach house, as long as there is not a road between you and the beach. Not being across a road is one of the very few rules that we have agreed so far in a formal meeting of sponsors, together with the ban on duplicate chaser reports, but this kind of negative rule will hardly tell you the precise boundaries of an activation zone. The point is that you operate portable from the beach, and that you as an activator, your chasers, sponsors and any other visitors will be able to share the beach experience. There's no Beaches On The Air without a beach experience.

If you read this and you are still in doubt about what amateur radio from the beach is, you may find inspiration by looking at these top rated activations by fellow Beaches On The Air participants.

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