While this weekend marks the official kickoff to summer craziness in the Hamptons, for those in the know, the season really begins on Feb. 1. That’s when the highly coveted, limited-quantity, $400, one-season-use, non-resident parking permits for the five East Hampton Village beaches go on sale, allowing access to the most sublime strips of sand, ocean and celeb-spotting around.
Without this particular sticker, there’s no point in even showing up for summer. When you buy a house outside the village limits, the Town of East Hampton issues you a beach parking pass.
Cute, but it’s beach-pass light. Nobody tells you about the more secluded, exclusive (only 3,100 available) village passes, which get you chicer beachgoers and smaller crowds.
And this is just one of the ever-increasing secret insider rituals on how to survive the Hamptons.
Think I’m exaggerating? Group texts start to whip around at the end of January. This year, my friend Kenny fired one off: “Guys, beach passes go on sale tomorrow. Don’t forget.”
Our friend Ron was on the chain. I texted back: “Hey, Ron’s mom died yesterday.”
Harsh but true.
In fact, Ron’s wife, Lori, frantically texted me en route to the funeral. At midnight, they tried to secure a permit online, only to learn that passes didn’t go on sale until Village Hall opened for business that morning. I had to jump in. Before Ron and Lori could bury his mother, Alice, they scrambled to get me all of the necessary documentation: car registration, driver’s license and credit card info.
Simultaneously, my friend Samantha and I were having the same exchange.
She had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and was also facing beach-pass crisis: Get to her oncologist’s appointment or get her documents together so she didn’t get shut out of summer.
Cancer could wait. Beach parking could not.
Even when you do everything right, disaster can strike. One year, my check to the village was cashed but my pass didn’t arrive. As the days went by and everybody else got theirs, I went into a full-throttled panic, finally bursting into Village Hall, hysterical.
It took three visits to convince them I was telling the truth and I had to fill out a police report to get a replacement. Turns out stealing an East Hampton Village beach pass is an actual crime.
It’s all understandable. There’s no greater joy than a lazy afternoon with friends on a pristine village beach. Days drift into evenings, that dewy and rosé-infused hour before the sun goes down, salt fills the air, the lull of the waves crashing against the shore sets in, and the $57-per-pound truffle cheese and crackers come out of the Yeti cooler bag. Without this particular sticker, there’s no point in even showing up for summer.
This year, East Hampton Village passes sold out on April 17, late compared to previous years. But when they are gone, they are gone. There were rumors years ago that even Beyoncé, late to the game, was denied. Apocryphal or not, there’s a real truth in there: You can’t out-money anyone in the Hamptons. Rich or famous, there are no exceptions. Other frenzied celebrities and the moneyed set have certainly tried, offering unlimited amounts of cash to not have their summer ruined.
Residents of the village get their beach passes no matter what. Maybe that’s why Beyoncé and Jay-Z dropped $25 million-plus on a house in the village in 2017 — to avoid the beach-pass hassle. One report suggested novelist A.M. Holmes did just that.
East Hampton Village, with its celebrity- and mansion-lined shores, is the place to be, and I’m not alone in that thinking. As I asked around to see what beach requirements existed in other places, such as Westhampton, I heard another harsh truth.
“Who cares?” said one village pass holder. “Westhampton is basically Queens.”
Stephanie Krikorian is a celebrity ghostwriter and author of the forthcoming book “Zen Bender: A Decade-Long Enthusiastic Quest to Fix Everything (That Was Never Broken),” out on Aug. 15.
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