Georgia’s Golden Isles don’t need Dr. Beach’s approval

Published 8:18 am Friday, June 8, 2012

Have you ever heard of Florida International University? I must admit they don’t come to mind when talking about institutions of higher learning. Perhaps that is because I think first of the University of Georgia, the oldest state-chartered university in the nation, located in Athens, the Classic City of the South, current state football champions and home to 18 Rhodes Scholars. Woof! Woof!

Okay, maybe FIU has more students than UGA but so does University of Ljubljana in Slovenia and nobody has heard of it, either.

This would likely not please “Dr. Beach.” Stephen Leatherman is director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research in Miami. He is called “Dr. Beach” because he rates beaches around the country each year for reasons that escape me. Maybe he has too much free time on his hands. I suspect the University of Ljubljana would keep him a lot busier teaching whatever they are studying in Slovenia.

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Anyway, Dr. Beach has just announced his Top 10 rankings of U.S. beaches this year — his 21st year of doing this — and the list does not include Georgia’s Golden Isles — Sea Island, St. Simons Island, Little Saint Simons and Jekyll Island. With this group of gems, we couldn’t crack the Top 10 beaches in the United States? Oh, please.

This may not make the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce happy, but I have no problem not being on Dr. Beach’s hit parade. Any list that includes among its Top 10 beaches New York and Massachusetts, where it snows 10 months a year, and California, which is better known for being the home of Nancy Pelosi and mudslides as well as the largest assortment of fruits and nuts this side of Claxton, is not a list that ranks high on my credibility meter. I guess I am a little surprised that South Dakota didn’t make it.

You and I both know that Georgia doesn’t need a guy who rates beaches for a living at a university in Florida that none of us have ever heard of telling us that somebody else’s beaches are nicer than ours. We know better.

Why did millionaires like the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts and J.P. Morgan and their pals build their mansions on Jekyll Island and not someplace like Detroit? (“Hey, Rocky, it’s me, J.P. I’m trying to decide whether to build me a mansion in Detroit and risk getting mugged seven days a week or sail my yacht down to Jekyll Island and watch golden sunsets over the marshes of Glynn. Any thoughts?”)

Why do students throng to the Golden Isles during the last week of October when scholar-athletes from the University of Georgia meet scholar-athletes from the University of Florida in a friendly contest called football? They could stay home and get knee-walking drunk but there is something magical about falling face down on the crystal white sands of St. Simons rather than on a sidewalk in Soperton.

And why was the G-8 Summit held on Sea Island in 2004 and not Coronado Beach, California (No. 1 on Dr. Beach’s Top 10 List this year.) Was it because Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to see the Cloister and this was the only way he could get in? (“Vlad, I know you are president of a big country, son, but nobody just walks into the Cloister. You have to be invited.”)

I could go on but you get my point. Not having our beaches listed among the Top 10 beaches in the U.S. is just another manifestation of the hostility the rest of the country has for Georgia. If they can’t live here, they will dis us and our beaches. They are all jealous of us because God clearly likes us best. Otherwise, why would “Georgia on My Mind,” be our official state song, and only to be sung by the late, great Ray Charles, of Albany, Georgia? I rest my case.

If you are worried about what Dr. Beach does or doesn’t think of our coast, fret not. You and I both know the Golden Isles have the most beautiful sunrises, family-friendly beaches and fine restaurants this side of heaven. Even the folks in Ljubljana would agree.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to nestle myself down on the silver sands of my beloved St. Simons Island and get busy with my exciting new study. I plan to publish an annual Top Ten 10 of irrelevant ratings. Dr. Beach, meet Dr. Pffft!

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139.