Spring Break 101
t’s not that we drink so much, it’s that we drink all the time’. A confession that perfectly describes Spring Break for nearly 40% of American university students. Every year hundreds of thousands of young people travel to sunny places to join in this week of fun and sun halfway through the semester, usually between March and April. But this is by no means a new trend; the testimonial above was published in 1959, when Time magazine dedicated its first article to the phenomenon.
It all started one spring in the mid-1930s, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The men’s swimming team of Colgate University decided to train in this pretty city because they wanted to use Florida’s first Olympic-sized swimming pool. The combination of sun, the start of spring and, quite probably the youthful hormones, converted the training period into an epic holiday that became a thing of legend. In the spring of 1959, about 20,000 students headed for Florida to drink and soak up the sun on the beach. After the success of the 1960 film, ‘Where the Boys Are’, this figure soared to 50,000.
‘Spring break forever’
Fort Lauderdale and Daytona Beach got tired of being the world’s hangover capitals. The former led the way by implementing more restrictive alcohol-drinking policies, while the latter ‘expelled’ MTV from its beaches. However, ‘Spring Break will never die out while there are young people in a party mood; now it has moved to Panama City Beach and South Padre Island.
These days, midriff-baring swimsuits and innocent flirting have given way to wet T-shirt competitions and shot-drinking marathons. In the 90s, MTV took charge of making the event even more popular by broadcasting a special programme that mixed pop concerts with coverage that was not suitable for the over-25s. The first programme was made in Daytona Beach, in Florida, and while the location may have changed, the bronzed skin or the dyed platinum blonde hair remained a constant until the beginning of the new century.
In places like San Diego (California), Panama City Beach (Florida) and Lake Havasu (Arizona) they carried on doing what they knew best: drink, dance and making bikinis out of whipped cream. Outside the United States, Negril (Jamaica) or Cancun (Mexico) are also among the favourite Spring Break destinations. The most important thing is to have some sun, a beach and a good number of young people willing to go overboard.
Each destination has its own attractions. In Lake Havasu you can rent a private boat to take the party out onto the water, whereas in Cancun you can go on an excursion to the cenotes (sinkholes) and Chichen Itza, or spend a morning snorkelling on Isla Mujeres.
However, you don’t go on Spring Break to go sightseeing. At the main destinations parties are held both during the day and at night, livened up by the performances of national and international DJs. Festivals that include the Inception Music Festival in Cancun, and Beach Bash Music Fest, with four different locations, invite artists such as 2 Chainz or Lil Wayne. The dress code is the same for all the parties: swimsuit and sunglasses, a promotional baseball cap provided by the event organisers and a red beaker, which is also essential.
People usually buy a package that includes all the events, a bit like a passport for entering into all the organised parties. Two nights probably isn’t enough time to go to all of them, but it’s the best way to avoid queues and having to go from one bar to another. Besides this recommendation, there are others, such as keeping yourself hydrated, using sun cream and ‘don’t kiss a jellyfish unless you’re another jellyfish’, advice that comes courtesy of the South Padre Island Visitors Center in Texas.