The ranking is flawed because past winners are taken out of consideration, but what the hell: Surf's up.
This may be hard to believe in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, but an annual list of the best beaches in the country has a New York beach ranked No. 1.
Less surprisingly, that beach is in East Hampton, the vacation playground for the rich and famous.
In an announcement that coincides annually with the unofficial start of summer, coastal expert Stephen P. Leatherman on Friday released the 23rd version of his Top 10 Beach List, placing Main Beach in East Hampton at the top.
“The thing about the Hamptons is that people are so proud of their beaches out there,” Leatherman told The Associated Press in an interview in advance of the release of his list. “People pick up their litter there, the bathrooms are clean; they provide good services.”
Leatherman, who goes by the nickname Dr. Beach, visited Main Beach earlier this month. He said that unlike many beaches farther to the west and in New Jersey, the beaches on eastern Long Island saw less erosion and flooding from the effects of Superstorm Sandy.
“Considering the magnitude of the storm, people will be very pleased to see that Main Beach is the way they remember it,” he said.
Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University in Miami, has visited beaches around the world and uses criteria like water and sand quality, as well as safety and environmental management, to compile his annual list. Once a beach reaches the pinnacle of No. 1, it is retired from future consideration, he said.
Coopers Beach in nearby Southampton, N.Y., was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 survey. Sarasota, Fla.’s Siesta Beach was tops in 2011 and Coronado Beach in California earned the top spot in 2012.
The other nine on Leatherman’s 2013 list after Main Beach are: Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki, Hawaii; St. George Island State Park, Fla.; Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii; Waimanalo Bay State Park, Oahu, Hawaii; Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park, Bonita Springs, Fla.; Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Fla.; Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, N.C.; Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.; and Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, S.C.
East Hampton village residents have free access to Main Beach, although parking permits are required from May 15 to Sept. 15. Non-residents can buy parking passes at $25 per day but they are limited in number, with only 40 non-resident daily parking passes sold on weekends and holidays.
Max Scainetti, a lifelong East Hampton resident, said the tiny grains of tan sand and the cleanliness of the beach are two of the things that make Main Beach special.
“This is one of the best beaches in the country and I’ve been to a lot of beaches,” Scainetti said. “I think basically it’s a lot to do with the sand. A lot of Long Island beaches tend to be rocky where these are more sandy beaches.”
Javier Baldo, an East Hampton cook, said he has visited Main Beach regularly for about eight years.
“It’s fairly civilized. It doesn’t get too crowded. The water is delicious,” he said. Delicious? “It’s really great water, it’s really clean. You just have a lot of space.”
Baldo said celebrities are sometimes seen at the beach, but people generally keep to themselves.
“It’s quiet, there’s no loud music playing. It’s obviously very safe; great lifeguards. There are really great lifeguards. They’re actually fit and very well experienced. That’s a big thing, just the safety,” he said.
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Photo credit: Main Beach in East Hampton, New York, is number one on the 2013 list of Top 10 Beaches produced annually by coastal expert Stephen P. Leatherman, also known as "Dr. Beach," director of Florida International University's Laboratory for Coastal Research. KKM Photo / Associated Press