The folks over at The Salt Life have done an excellent job at marketing themselves. I’m seeing autos adorned with decals and people sporting tee-shirts and high end gear displaying the assortment of Salt Life images. It’s becoming a hot trend and it pisses me off.
What is the Salt Life, exactly? Perhaps you can see it in the classic image of the seasoned sailor.
If you trust the videos on the website, it seems to be about fishing, sunglasses and bikini clad females. If you ask people sporting the logo, you’ll likely get a variety of answers ranging from “It’s about the beach, man” to “It’s about fishing and chillin out.”
These weekenders and visitors like to dip their toes in the sea and throw a toast to the Salt Life. The Salt Life seems to be open to some interpretation – and I think I’ll share mine with you, although, if you are a current fan of the Salt Life brand, you likely won’t like it…won’t like it much at all.
I grew up on the coast of South Carolina. I spent my time fairly equally between the frenzy of Myrtle Beach and the ebb and flow of Murrell's Inlet, SC. I know something about life at the edge of the sea, the salt of the sand and the pungent muck of the marshy inlet tides. Everything about living in this part of the world is salty – sand, sea, marsh, fish, mud, shells, lines, lures, skin and bait – all of it. This is the place of stunning sky-scapes, painted with the swirling orange and navy that only the coast can offer. This is the space of sun bathing, basking in the seemingly eternal warmth of the sun, where the thought of layered clothing and down coats seems to be no more the fabric of myth. For many of you, this is where memories of clever drunkenness and hedonistic frolicking dances in memory and contrasts with the conservative, measured life you live before and after your dip into the salty and wet world of the beach. These sentiments are a romantic notion of the Salt Life. The salt life is much more, dang-it! – if we’re honest and we need to be honest.
I have seen my share of sunsets from the boat in the inlet and done my measure of frolicking in the surf. I have also had to wash the boat, pay for the fuel and learn how to carefully navigate the channels of an inlet made up of unforgiving oyster flats and sandbars. I understand that the salt life is as much about replacing a sheared pin on an outboard motor while stuck knee deep in mud as it is about careening carelessly across wakes. I know that if you don’t clean that popular salt off your gear before you stow it, you’re going to ruin it.
The honest truth is that this Salt Life we are hearing about isn't about escaping the un-Salted life, it’s about living with the annoyance of sand in your shoes and caked mud on your legs from dragging crab traps. It’s about work, the work that yields the right to rest and enjoy the fruits of one’s labor. The Salt Life is about much more than slapping an attractive sticker on your SUV and pulling your forty thousand dollar boat for a weekend at the coast. The Salt Life is about giving a good measure of your soul to the work of living next to beauty and in the harshness of the sea. The sea is an unforgiving mistress and that smile of the old sailor, that enviable detachment and salty distain that you see on his face is earned through years of living the Salt Life.
Your sticker cheapens him.