The Beachcomber

Ode to the Outdoor Shower

By VICTORIA FORD | Jul 14, 2017

In terms of summer’s simplest and greatest joys, the outdoor shower is unmatched: the combination of hot water, sunlight or moonlight, fresh air dancing around ankles; the slap of bare feet on wet wood or cement; the spiders ogling from the corner, judging.

The essence of an outdoor shower is uniquely defined by the showerer – peace and relaxation, escape, refreshment, therapy, even salvation. A religious experience, to be sure, as the question often evokes the responses “heaven,” “Nirvana” and “bliss.”

Mine, situated beneath my second-floor deck, is roomy, cavernous. Four decorative hooks found at an antique fair hold towels and swimwear (three mounted at grownup height, one down low for pint-sized users). I keep a full-length mirror in there and candles in glass jars for showers after dark. My boys’ skimboards live in there when not in use, and a handy bench provides a dry spot for clothes. I think of it like Superman’s phone booth because I enter as one persona and come out transformed.

The best shower is the post-workout shower, after a grueling run or bike ride, when I’ve really earned it, when the falling water that removes the layer of sweat and salt reveals a healthier, happier, glowing me.

Still some swear the best moment occurs not during the shower but immediately after, upon stepping out into the open air with freshly cleansed skin.

The outdoor shower “is like a swirling vortex of nature’s pleasures,” according to Island frequenter Michael Molinaro.

Avid surfer Mary Buck appreciates that hers provides enough room to get out of her wetsuit and thoroughly rinse it out and hang it up so it’s ready for the next day of waves without getting sand in her house tub.

For Solange Cofone of Beach Haven West, the best thing about her outdoor shower is the satisfaction of knowing she built it herself. Start to finish inside of a month, the mom of two small boys bought the cedar, sanded the boards, built the structure, stained it, added a door with a swanky stainless steel handle upcycled from a boat, and still had enough strength in her arms to pat herself on the back.

A personal touch is a must. Jennifer Begonia in Barnegat Light fitted the opening above her door with a mosaic glass piece she made with local glass artist Mary Tantillo at Tantillo’s studio, SwellColors. A small cairn on a ledge stands as a symbol of mindfulness.

If not a personal touch, how about a personal challenge? How late into the year will you brave the sensations?

West Creek’s Ray Fisk recalled: “When I built the house on (Cedar Run) Dock Road, there were no sewers for the first six years, and every drop of water used inside had to be pumped from a holding tank at great expense. So, being frugal, I took outside showers year ’round.

“We all know showering outside on balmy summer nights is delightful (glass of wine, citronella candles, and all), but – to feel really alive – nothing is more invigorating than a bracing outside shower in a November nor’easter or a February snowstorm!

“After the intense hot-cold blast, I’d grip my towel, run to the door, glance at whitecaps on the bay, and alternately think ‘This is livin’!’ or ‘I am insane.’”

For Margaret Buchholz of Harvey Cedars, the best thing about rinsing off outside is the uninterrupted vista. “No one has a better view than my outdoor shower, right on the bay,” she said.

For Tracey Cameron in Barnegat Light, it’s the duplicity. Side-by-side stalls mean she and a friend can chitchat while getting clean – i.e., bare souls but not bods.

A double shower stall from ToddPod provides the convenience of a changing room separated by a partition wall to keep clothes dry while being secure and private. The door can be placed in any location on the unit and can be opened in any direction to suit the client’s needs.

“After a swim at the beach you can easily take a shower and get changed in complete privacy,” according to Dawn Samuels of ToddPod. “By adding a hook bar you will have no more dripping bathing suits or sand traipsed through your home.

“Keep family and guests outside while keeping your home clean on the inside.”

Paul Maina of Maina Builders in Surf City recalls his favorite outdoor shower he built at a house in Brant Beach for an interior designer. “Everything was carefully discussed and selected to match the feel of the concept and fit the traditional cedar shake, classic home where they live. We even had a big piece of bluestone laid on the floor with rocks around it to drain. I came up with the idea of a reverse, standing seam copper roof with the copper lights.”

Down in Beach Haven, many remember and miss Larry Nemeth, a beloved character often found at the Marlin and Tuna Club, who passed away in 2015. What made the shower at his house so memorable was the décor, his collection of metal signs (“beach rules”) and found objects.

Nemeth would have said why not up the refreshment factor further: Take a cold beer in there.

For Linda Ramsay in High Bar Harbor, it’s the great big “rainfall”-style shower head in an otherwise “pretty basic” shower. (We recently upgraded to a rainfall head and she’s right, the difference is remarkable.)

Probe further and the descriptions range from primitive to cosmic:

Sensual.

Dreamy.

Grounding.

Freeing.

Exhibitionism meets voyeurism (“Shit, forgot the towel!”).

Communing or contending with nature, as one Barnegat Light resident pointed out, means sharing the space with insects and weeds.

In a word, slugs. “We kids were scared to take a shower when we first came to our Ship Bottom rental cottage on vacation in 1972,” Maria Scandale recalled. “Slugs in the dark, slugs in the daylight. We had no choice – the cottage had no inside shower or tub. No TV, either.”

Down in Holgate, where the greenheads are fierce, Elizabeth Burke Beaty recommends, for the roofless varieties, using a net held in place by whelk shells.

Radical.

Revitalizing.

Summer.

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