A beach day is made infinitely better with the addition of shade. If you don’t own an umbrella, or you don’t feel like lugging one with you, you’ve got some options. If you’re taking the NYC Beach Bus, you can reserve an umbrella for a very reasonable $10 via Rent Ride Return, which they will deliver right to the bus.
But say you’re really budgeting or prefer to get creative once you’re out on the sand, or you’re biking and can’t bring a whole set-up, all you need is a sheet and something to tether it to, which could be anything from the spokes of your bike wheels to some sturdy driftwood you find in the surf, to create (but not throw) your own shade.
We know anything DIY can be intimidating, especially for those of us who’d rather peruse PINT-erest than Pinterest (get it? like pint of beer?). While seeking examples of do it yourself beach encampments, we checked out how the crazy kids at Fort Tilden do it (they tend to be in extra need of shelter, on account of being mostly naked).
While you can ostensibly pitch your own makeshift shelter at any of NYC’s beaches, Fort Tilden is the ideal locale because it’s much less crowded, there’s never a shortage of driftwood, and we like to think the actual surrounding forts provide inspiration. Not to mention, your shelter will look real pretty against the scenic backdrop of Fort Tilden wilderness.
Here are 11 examples of the best DIY beach forts we found on the beaches of Fort Tilden — that you can make, too!
1. The Bike Cabana
If you and a friend are biking out to the beach, and therefore traveling light, all you need to bring with you is one big sheet (a blanket to sit on is a nice bonus). Once you arrive, flip your bikes upside down and tie the corners of the sheet to the spokes or wheels. Ta-da!
2. The Right Angle Triangle Hang
Otherwise known as the one-shoulder dress of beach forts, this no-fuss set-up pitches a sheet at a 45 degree angle. All you need is four sturdy foraged sticks, two of which are taller than the others, to create that slope of shade. In the above example, looks like the builder got pretty thrifty with how they attached the sheet to the wood posts, using a backpack strap to keep it in place on the front left, and a rubber band or a hair tie on the front right.
3. The Classic Four Post Canopy
A sound square structure made out of one sheet tethered to four posts — or, whatever will approximate as posts, in this case, the back of a beach chair and a backpack. ABC=always be creative!
4. The Manic Pixie Dream Shelter
For when you wanna do you, and you is best represented by a paisley pashmina awkwardly wrapped around some spindly-ass sticks. It looks like it’s either about to scatter to the wind, or come crashing down, but in the meantime, maybe a boy will wander by and write a poem about it.
5. The Overachiever
When you’re rolling deep to the beach, it’s gonna take at least four sheets and as many sticks as you can find to keep everybody out of the sun. This epic tent is kind of a show-off, but we have to say, we are impressed.
6. The Desert Island Fail
We’re not sure what they were going for here. Some striking geometrical configurations, a spare, minimalist vibe, a nice spearmint-colored striped sheet … but not much actual shade.
7. The Still Life
When you forget what you set out to do, and decide to play art director instead.
8. The Bat-Shit Boyscout
Everything he learned as a boy about building has since been derailed by haunting visions of Carcosa (True Detective, Season 1).
9. The Ghost Tent
No hands! No driftwood! Voila, a floating, magic carpet sheet!
10. The Love Fortress
When you get too tired digging driftwood into the sand, maybe just create your own shelter, out of intimacy. Building a shelter is hard—that’s what she said.
11. The Call of the Wild
As Trump would say, this tent was pitched like a dog.