During the week, Ann Mills works for the DuPont Co. in Wilmington, but don't get in her way when the weekend comes.
Like so many others, she and husband Mark head south about every summer weekend to spend time at the beach. While others cart chairs, coolers and umbrellas from parking spots across the sand to the shore, she and her “extended beach family” have the art of four-wheel drive beach access to a science. They carry everything imaginable in their trucks for a day at the beach.
That extended beach family has grown and grown over the past four years so that dozens of people have become close because of their love of the beach life. There are at least five families in the group and sometimes as many as eight families; Mills says sometimes work gets in the way of their fun. “We all met on the beach,” Mills said.
Together, they have experienced births, anniversaries and birthdays, and even some trying times.
Noel Mucha, who everyone calls Wonder Woman - and not just because of her red, white and blue bikini - saved her friend Pattie McBride's life by doing the Heimlich maneuver when a piece of steak got lodged in her throat. Then three years ago, Mucha suffered the loss of her son who drowned in the surf.
“We support one another just like a family,” Mills said. “We really love each other.”
The youngest beach-goer, Briella Napier, is only 11 weeks old and already loves the beach, says grandmother Mills.
They keep coming back to the same location near Herring Point in Cape Henlopen State Park for fishing, playing, swimming, eating, sunbathing and lots of fun. Mills said most families and friends spend as much time as they can at the beach, which usually ends up being all day Saturday and Sunday.
And those who lose at the group's favorite game, corn-hole toss, are sure to face the wrath of Missy Kalafut. The roller-derby player is quick to tackle the losers regardless of size - all in fun.
Mills said one of the men in the group tried to return the favor and was in the process of throwing her into the ocean when he realized she actually got the upper hand by pulling down his pants as he picked her up. He didn't realize it until it was too late.
“We saw a full moon that day,” Mills said with a laugh.
The group - at least 24 strong - got together this past Labor Day weekend for a final beach blast at the end of the summer season. The Italian feast was one to rival any good restaurant. They dug out a large table in the sand and sat down to eat around 6 p.m. as the sun began to dip behind the dunes on another perfect beach day.
Of course, they were all back early the next day to do it all over again.
Surf-fishing permit required to reach the beach
Backing up the truck to the shoreline is a way of life for thousands of people who line the shoreline each weekend. Surf-fishing vehicle permit tags are required to ride a vehicle on the sand in designated areas within Cape Henlopen State Park near Lewes, Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve near Broadkill Beach and Delaware Seashore State Park along the Atlantic Coast. Those who park on the sand must be actively involved in surf fishing and have the required equipment on hand.
Four vehicle beach crossings are provided in the two state parks and one crossing is provided to reach the beach on Beach Plum Island.
Annual permits are $65 for residents and $130 for non-residents and $55 for resident seniors over 62 years of age and $110 for non-resident seniors. Delaware firefighters and emergency medical technicians receive free permits.