The first nudists to attend the beach apparently did so back in the 1920's. These were mostly gay men who sought to enjoy the sunshine without the hypocrisy of wearing clothes while sunbathing.The 6 km. long beach became the focus of their efforts due in large part to it's remoteness from Vancouver, and that city's puritanistic social climate. Occasional arrests for nudity continued into the early 1970's. As the years passed, more heterosexual people began coming to the beach, including women and children. Already engaged in a lifestyle that deviated somewhat from the social norm, these people began to violate another local taboo, the drinking of alcohol in public places, both then and now a criminal offense. Later, when the use of marijuana became widespread in the general society, it's use became yet another taboo which was openly broken at the beach.
Although beer drinking was illegal at the beach, police did not begin to pursue beer seizures until the late 70's. People who wanted a beer simply brought their own. At this time in British Columbia, beer was available only in glass bottles. The weight of the bottles, which at that time had to be carried down steep trails, and the advent of beer seizures by police brought on a new profession, beer vending.
The first vendors dealt in fairly small quanities, the weight of the bottles being the factor which limited the amount which the vendors could carry to the beach. After beer became available in aluminium cans, the vendors were able to carry increased quantities.
From time to time a vendor would purchase a boat and bring the beer onto the beach from the sea, but they've almost always brought it down the many trails which begin on marine drive. One tactic employed by the police in their efforts against beer drinkers was to intercept it at the main trail. Numerous beachgoers witnessed the power of the police state in action, as the police would politely ask people who were going to the beach if they (the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) could look through their knapsacks. Rarely has anyone said no to these random searches. The vast majority of individuals whose beverages were seized in this fashion were not vendors but rather ordinary people intent on relaxation.
Some vendors would get caught in this fashion too, and when they were caught the penalty was the same as for others, their beer cans were opened and the contents spilled onto the ground. A vendor could lose a hundred or more cans at one go, amounting to a fine without a trial . Beer vending became a bit of an art, with many vendors finding that success at the trade required that they to bring the beers down the rough trails which were not guarded by the R.C.M.P. Vendors learned to bury their main coolers, to keep them hidden from the police.
At times the police would employ metal detectors to find the cans, but this was not as useful a tool as they had initially evisioned. They had better luck with ski poles from which they had removed the baskets. These probes allowed them to search below the sand's surface. One day they watched a vendor through binoculars (from a gap in the trees along Marine Drive)The police who had watched this vendor gave directions to those on the beach by radio (six inches to left...right a bit etc.)These measures brought an atmosphere of oppression to the beach whenever the police were present. The vendors received complete cooperation from beachgoers, who would raise the cry "six up" as a warning that the R.C.M.P. were on the beach. The police found only limited success, and after budget cuts, they reassesed the value of fighting beer drinking and relaxed their efforts.
The status quo seems to be that beer drinking is still illegal, but that they're not going to pursue the matter.
Although someone new enters the field nearly everyday, getting the beers to the beach, keeping them cold without electricity, dodging the police the odd time they do show up, dealing with the vagaries of the weather and trying to run a small business makes for a long and tiring day. New people don't usually stick with it and most of the beer vendors are seasoned professionals. So kick back, relax and enjoy a cold one. And don't forget, if the police do come along, throw your shirt over the can so the cops can't see it, they don't want to.
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