Maho Beach: like sunbathing on a runway

What you see in this photo is a common occurrence at Maho Beach on the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten. Photographer Thomas Prior spent a week there taking pictures on the dunes, where there's even a flight schedule chalkboard so you're not taken by surprise. From Turnstyle:
 Wp-Content Uploads 2011 02 91 “The jet blast is like a 150 degrees and (the blowing sand) feels like rocks.” Prior said, “There were 60 planes that week, and I was there for every one of them.” Nearly six million people have watched a YouTube video of a 747 blowing beach goers dozens of feet into the ocean. Prior says he was hoping to capture that over and over again – sunbather after sunbather hurtling into the ocean in a Wizard Of Oz-like hail of sand clouds. He sounded disappointed when he added, “Only one or two of them had the power to blow people into the water.”

On one end of the beach there’s a bar with a deck gazing out onto the spectacle of Maho, with speakers broadcasting radio chatter from pilots preparing to take off and land. On the beach itself, there’s a sign announcing the flight schedule for the day, and before the airport installed a second security fence, beach goers used to hang on the chain link fence and flap like flags in the blast from jet engines revving for takeoff.

"Runway Beach"


  1. So much fail in that article. It’s not the landing planes that blow people in the ocean. You have to wait for a large one starting.


    1. Walk to the airport (10 Minutes) or take the bus ($1).
    2. Ask at the counter of KLM, Corsair (747) or Air France (A340) if the plane is fully booked.
    3. If yes go back to the beach.
    4. ???
    5. Profit!

    Especially the fully loaded planes bound for Paris start running all four engines with locked brakes until they reach full power.

    That blows everyone into the ocean at around 80% of the full power – and as long as they can withstand the sandstorm long enough.

  2. Gee, a place where you could hit a commercial airliner with a slingshot. I can imagine how the security cultists in the USA would react to that!

  3. I’ve lost many pairs of sunglasses on that beach. I imagine you could make a fortune scavenging offshore with a snorkel.

  4. hey, my brother and his girlfriend visited there! upon his return he was wearing a t-shirt with the sign from picture #8 on it.

  5. Like, wouldn’t the sand be at 150degF (I’m assuming the article, since it’s written in ‘Mercan, means Farhenheit) all by itself anyway?

    Here at Parlee Beach in July, the sand will hit that temperature just from the sun.

  6. I have many fond memories of spending the winter not far from Maho Beach about 10 years ago. That was before they added the second fence.

    The beach was beautiful, and because of the constant jets pummeling the area right behind the runway that area was always clear. It was considered poor form to warn people just arriving to the beach about what was likely to happen, thus ruining the fun of watching them get sandblasted.

    We used to line up and hold onto the fence. The blast from a 747 would blow you horizontal. Hats and sunglasses would be blown out to see, and my friend also lost a couple of 100 $ bills that got blown out of his shirt pocket one day.

    The bar at the end of the beach was the Sunset Beach Bar, which according to this site sadly appears to have been shut down a couple of years ago. They had jager on tap and a policy of “topless girls drink free” that was strictly enforced.

    I think hanging out at the end of that runway looking into the rear end of a Paris-bound Air France 747 and then heading to the Sunset Beach Bar is one of the highlights of my years-long career in the Caribbean. Glad to hear that things haven’t changed too much!

  7. Spending a week on a Caribbean island beach taking snapshots, what a hardship assignment that must have been.

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