“In the last few years I’ve been noticing more people with their gear,” Ms. Rosenberg said. She was originally looking to make a comparison between beach-spreading maximalists and just-a-towel-and-a-book minimalists. “But the maximalists just won over,’’ she said. “Because that’s all there really is in New Jersey. It’s the maximalists.”
It has become such a scourge that towns are now taking steps to rein in the expansive behavior. This year, Seaside Heights imposed limits on cooler and tent sizes and banned “serving trays, warming trays, pots, pans,” and other food preparation “devices.” Belmar has introduced legislation to ban tents. Manasquan already has similar rules, but added a ban on balls.
“It’s to the point that it looks like tailgating at MetLife stadium,” Matt Doherty, the Belmar mayor, said. “And I love tailgating at MetLife stadium, I really do. It’s just not what we’re looking for on the beach.”
On just about any given sunny weekend or weekday, evidence of the contagion is rampant.
With a tall, black pop-up cabana and the nasally vocals of Omi’s “Cheerleader” wafting across the beach, Andrea Julius and her friends from Philadelphia spread out toward the back of Jenkinson’s beach here to celebrate her 29th birthday.
“We like to be secluded but still connected to everyone, and this tent does it,” she said, while two friends volleyed a beach ball nearby.
They were, of course, there on a Tuesday, and the surrounding space allowed them some courtesy.
“We’re respectful back here,’’ Ms. Julius said. “All they have to do is tell us, and we’ll turn it down or take it down.’’
On the weekends the situation can get thornier.
Farther down the beach from the Weal spread, Rob Trumbo, 31, and Jessica Helfrich, 31, opted for foldable beach chairs, even though they usually bring along an umbrella, which wasn’t really necessary since the sun was hidden behind clouds.
In front of them, the Roman family from Fair Lawn gathered under a navy cabana, hanging towels from the canopy as a way to maximize shade while drying the towels. The weight of small ice coolers tied with short pieces of rope to the legs of the tent added stability.
Ms. Helfrich, a medical coder from Scranton, Pa., said that families with canopies should consider setting up toward the back of beaches.
Susan Roman, 55, said she and her husband, Robert Roman, 61, had arrived early to claim a clear view of the beach, right behind a sand berm.
“We stay in the back if it’s too crowded,” Ms. Roman said.
While beach gear is often readily attainable at boardwalk shops, sometimes a simple cabana won’t do.
“We had a guy last year bring in a coffin,” said Mayor Anthony Vaz of Seaside Heights. “I’m not lying, a wooden coffin with his food and his drinks and so forth. And we said, ‘No we can’t have that.’’’
But where there’s a will, there’s a way to spread.
The Kiernan family, which had gone to Seaside Heights on a Tuesday, carried a tie-dyed surfboard with the word “Peace” scrawled across it. But tucked underneath were some table legs, and the board quickly became a table for a rousing game of cards.
In Belmar, Bobbie Sue Hoffman, 47, who had gone there for the day from Levittown, Pa., carried a tent that looked more like an umbrella when it was folded. She often checks to make sure she’s not blocking anybody’s view, but having arrived early on a Tuesday, beach locations were hers for the choosing.