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Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, GA

Filed Under , on July 15th, 2017

Driftwood Dreams

By Seth Kabala

The Toastmasters gift keeps on giving. Here’s Project #5, delivered this past Thursday.


What’s the best way to spend a day at the beach? Is it sitting with, as the Zac Brown Band puts it in their song “Toes,” your “toes in the water, ass in the sand, not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand, life is good today, life is good today”?

Is it walking along the shoreline as the tide comes in, running over the tops of your feet, chilling your ankles, and soaking your pant cuffs? With each passing step, you get a little bit colder, but a lot more alive.

Is it moving squarely into the center of your Zen, stacking rocks into improbable piles and not giving a crap what anyone thinks as you strike yoga poses on top of a sand dune?

I submit to you that none of these is the best way to spend a day at the beach; the best way is to build a two-story tiki hut out of driftwood.


Over the fourth of July weekend, my family and I traveled to Newport, OR to stay with extended family members in a beach-side lodge. Walking out the back of the lodge, you immediately alight upon a trail. This trail switchbacks down the hillside and deposits you onto the sand. From here, the ocean could be, depending on the tide level, mere seconds away, but no more than a minute or two.

I’ve been to the beach enough times to have developed an appreciation for the water and all its power and beauty. What lacks in appreciation, I think, are all the creative driftwood masterpieces that beach-goers erect, which range in scale from simple bridges to span the narrow stream that runs inland between the hillside and the surf, to the two-story tiki hut I saw over the fourth.

This structure was built next to the stream I just mentioned. It started with two, long, telephone-pole looking pieces of driftwood sunk into the bank on one side and propped up on blocks in the middle of the stream on the other. The creators laid a broken pallet at the end of these poles, setting up a gentle slope that extended onto the soft sand. Once you were over that, you were free and clear to head to the water.

Next to this impressive bridge, however, was the real beach-bum feat of engineering. The creators sank several more long poles into the bank on the stream-side. This time, though, they sank them straight down, and they must have gone down a ways, because they extended straight up for at least 20’. They did this at three distinct points, one on each corner of a triangle.

From here, they somehow secured shorter pieces of driftwood to span the lengths between the upright poles, resting in knobby branch remnants and holding the upright poles together. There might have been a nail or two, perhaps a wayward piece of twine, but for the most part, it appeared to have been held together by beach magic.

The creators next moved on to the finish work.

I’m guessing they cheated a bit, because they erected crude stringers to build a platform across the empty space in the middle of the triangle. This platform stood about 7’ off the ground. The stringers looked suspiciously like standard 2x8s from a lumber yard. Plus, the decking resembled board siding. I’ll give them a pass on the cross-contamination of materials, because the combination was, at least to the naked eye, perfectly level.

With the skeleton in place, they cut various weeds and bushes, wove them in-between the framing, and closed off the upper walls on two sides, leaving the water vista unblemished.

On day one, I saw a couple dudes relaxing on the platform, throwing back brewskies and probably talking about nothing. I didn’t know if they had erected the structure or were just occupying it for the moment, but I left them to their reverie and, since I didn’t see a sign charging a toll–which would have been, like, most uncool, brah–stole my way across the bridge and down to the water.

The next day, I climbed the partial-driftwood ladder the creators had laid against the structure, sat on the driftwood bench they had installed, and despite the tremendous winds that whipped around the beach, it was peaceful. I could hear. I could think. I was happy.

Down below, the creators again strayed from conventional driftwood building methodology by erecting belly-up-to bars fully two-feet wide, finished with bamboo skirting. Did planed and smooth pieces of lumber and bamboo skirting miraculously wash up on the beach? Probably not. But who cares? You could have seated six people at each of the bars, a Corona in each hand, all starring at the sunset and singing Jimmy Buffet tunes.


I sense that I haven’t made much of a traditional point in this speech, but that was the point. The story was the point. How many speeches have you heard about the engineering marvels of driftwood? How many peoples’ lives have been forever enriched because somebody, probably a lot of somebodies, put in the effort to build a beach-side marvel, without an apparent care in the world about the next high tide that would rise and wreck the whole business?

I know at least one. Good enough.

The chorus of that Zac Brown Band song I mentioned starts with this lyric “Adios and vaya con Dios,” which some sources say is meant to convey goodbye in an especially dramatic fashion, such as when people are leaving for a long time, or when the odds are against you ever seeing them again.

I don’t think I’ll see that driftwood tiki hut again. So adios and vaya con Dios, tiki hut.

I’ll see your friends next year


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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, musician, family man, and juggler of balls--big ones. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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