Cook – and his French counterpart Bougainville – imported the idea of the beach as a Polynesian paradise with palm trees back in the second half of the eighteenth century and we have been struggling to live up to that fantasy ever since.
The death of Cook was like a blood sacrifice to set up a new religion.
It makes a sedate appearance in Impressionist paintings of Normandy (Monet’s ‘On the Beach at Trouville’ for example) and then more erotically in Gauguin’s naked Tahiti paintings.
Then it takes off again with the twentieth-century renaissance of surfing and hedonism.
In anthropology the myth of the beach took shape in Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa (1929) which depicts sexually permissive beach girls disporting themselves and it gets injected into the mainstream via the Beach Boys and the music of Brian Wilson in the sixties.
According to Freud the beach was the natural habitat of the pleasure principle run riot.
The id on holiday.
Or on surfari.