The Science of Beach Bliss

Researchers in Australia decided to examine persistent claims from chronic lung disease sufferers that they could breathe more easily after a day of surfing
Jonathan Whitestone with a striped bass caught on bunker chunk from White Sands Beach on Napeague. Harvey Bennett

Doctors for centuries have suspected that sea air has recuperative powers. They’ve directed patients with a wide range of ailments to head for the shore. Back in 1894, the English medical journal The Lancet offered that “those who are languid and debilitated from over-work or long-continued strain obtain benefit from sea air.” 

Most of the evidence that a day at the beach or time on the water produces real health benefits has been anecdotal. But about a decade ago researchers in Australia decided to examine persistent claims from chronic lung disease sufferers that they could breathe more easily after a day of surfing. 

The investigators designed a study in which a group of individuals suffering from cystic fibrosis was given an inhaled hypertonic saline solution for 48 weeks. The hypothesis was that salty air clears the lungs by drawing water to the surface of the airways, which loosens troubling congestion. The results of the experiment were published in 2006. The researchers found that patients receiving the inhaled salt solution experienced fewer pulmonary complications and required fewer antibiotics to control their condition. Today it is standard practice for doctors to prescribe a 7 percent sodium chloride inhalation solution to cystic fibrosis patients and to recommend surfing as a therapeutic activity.  

Hanging at the shore not only can heal what ails you, but, as every beachgoer and saltwater angler can attest, has a very calming impact on the mind and body. Who hasn’t fallen asleep in a beach chair within five minutes of assuming the position? Some believe the sound of waves repeatedly falling against the shore is responsible for inducing a relaxed state. Others contend that the heat of the sun pushes the body’s endocrine system to produce endorphins, chemicals that combat stress. But for others it’s the negative ions, baby. 

Negative ions are molecules created and dispersed by crashing water. Once inhaled and circulated within the bloodstream, the negative ions stimulate the body’s production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, which some researchers believe is responsible for maintaining mood balance. 

The beneficial impact of negative ions on the human body has been documented in several scientific studies. Researchers at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow found that negative ions protect the body from induced physical stress. Researchers at the Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences in Liverpool reported that negative ions significantly improved all physiological states, particularly during rest. 

So while that easy feeling one gets at the beach or while bobbing about on the water can be achieved with a Corona or two or three, a couple of deep breaths of luscious ocean air can do the trick, too, without the extra carbs. 

From the time that hooks were first crafted from shells thousands of years ago, fishermen have known that the sea can heal the mind and body. We reflexively inhale its rich air before releasing our first cast of the day. Ocean air clears our minds and invigorates our bodies, setting us free to indefatigably pursue the big one that didn’t get away.

Harvey Bennett at the Tackle Shop in Amagansett reported great action on bay and beach with anglers finding bass at the Georgica jetties and along Napeague beaches. A rare visitor, a large black drum, was landed at Hither Hills State Park, Bennett added. Those who like to bend a fly rod can find shad on the ocean side. Fluke fishing is productive off Napeague and some bonito were sighted east of Goff Point, said Bennett. 

T.J. at Gone Fishing Marina in Montauk reported that summer fishing couldn’t be better. Anglers are taking bass day and night on eels, trolling and live-lining. Fluke fishing continues strong at Frisbees and in north rips while quality sea bass and porgies could be found on any hard bottom, he said. Offshore canyon fishing broke open last week with boats returning to the dock with bluefin, bigeye, and yellowfin tuna. Those putting in the time also found some tuna at Butterfish Hole, T.J. said.

Those looking for tuna action who don’t own a boat or have the necessary gear can jump aboard the Viking’s FiveStar tuna trip. 

Sebastian Gorgone at Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton reported fluke on the smaller size in Gardiner’s Bay and sea bass around Plum Island. Snappers haven’t yet shown in the harbor, he said.

Ken Morse at Tight Lines Tackle in Sag Harbor reported that weakfish continue to bite in the Peconic, with small blues at Jessup’s and fluke here and there at Cedar Point. Blue claws are available for crabbing, Morse mentioned.

In other water news, State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. announced that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed legislation they sponsored that will prohibit those holding a marine and coastal district food-fish landing license from landing blackfish taken from waters outside the marine and coastal district for commercial purposes. The stated objective of the legislation is to prevent some unscrupulous fishermen from improperly taking blackfish for commercial purposes.

Follow The Star’s fishing columnist on Twitter, @ehstarfishing. Photos of prize catches can be emailed to David Kuperschmid at