Earl vs. Machine: Year-Round Beach Bum to Yield to Dredging

Earl vs. Machine: Year-Round Beach Bum to Yield to Dredging

Earl Paul, Ocean City’s most faithful beachgoer, sits at his usual spot at Plymouth Place as the north end beach replenishment project bears down on Tuesday.


A massive Army Corps of Engineers beach rebuilding project is on a collision course with one of the most unmovable parts of the beach in Ocean City: Earl Paul.

Just about every day for 18 years, Paul has set up his trademark yellow-and-white umbrella at Plymouth Place (between Seventh Street and Eighth Street) and enjoyed the privilege of sitting on the beach.

Paul said that he’s missed only six days this year. He said only a driving and relentless rain keeps him away. He’s a familiar sight to any year-round beach visitor.

But on Tuesday morning, a wall of pipeline, flying slurry and earth-moving equipment was bearing down on his favorite spot. The project area stopped about 50 feet from where he sat.

Alas, Earl recognizes he’s no match for the machines. He said he won’t let the project drive him away from the beach. He’ll just retreat and set up a few blocks to the north until the project passes by in a few days.

A retired union pipe fitter from Philadelphia, Paul moved to Plymouth Place with his wife in 1995. But the love of his life died just two years later, and a grieving Paul took solace in daily trips to the beach — a ritual he’s continued since 1997.

His story and adventures over the years are retold in a book called “East of the Boardwalk.”

On a spectacular Tuesday morning with a bright blue sky, light wind and a warming sun, Earl said he just doesn’t understand it.

He scanned an empty beach and asked, “Why doesn’t anybody else come out and enjoy all this?”


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