Sani­bel Stoop­ers

A study on the se­cret moves of Sani­bel’s shell seek­ers

Times of the Islands - - Features - BY JACK BRES­LIN IL­LUS­TRA­TIONS BY DAVE DROTL­EFF

Jack Bres­lin takes us on a hi­lar­i­ous jour­ney as we ex­plore the var­i­ous tech­niques of stoop­ing used by shell seek­ers in their quest to find the per­fect seashell.

While Sani­bel Is­land has earned an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion as a seashell par­adise, it is also home to a fas­ci­nat­ing ar­ray of “stooper” meth­ods em­ployed by those who covet the sandy trea­sures. They come in all shapes and styles— ca­sual to hard­core and clever to clumsy. Per­haps you have seen these var­i­ous types while strolling Sani­bel’s shore­line yourself. Or pos­si­bly you rec­og­nize your own style among these moves.


You’ve un­doubt­edly seen this one. ( Or has he been just too sneaky?) He will make ev­ery ef­fort to ap­pear as if he doesn’t re­ally care about shells. Af­ter all, it’s a touristy thing to do.

But, as he ap­pears to me­an­der ca­su­ally along the beach, he’s re­ally con­stantly on the prowl for prized pris­tine shells. And once he spots his prey, he moves swiftly with the re­solve of a pan­ther pounc­ing on his evening meal. Quickly snatch­ing his se­lec­tion be­tween two highly trained fin­gers and drop­ping it in his pocket in one deft move­ment, he glances side­ways to con­firm he was not de­tected.

Walk­ing away non­cha­lantly, he keeps his trea­sure in his pocket un­til he’s far down the beach. When he’s con­vinced there’s enough dis­tance be­tween him and the scene, he slowly brings out his in­valu­able item only to find it’s a run- of- the- mill shell. It hap­pens ev­ery time.

Sneaky, de­vi­ous, shifty? You bet. But, sadly, he’s more fo­cused on the tech­nique than the prize.

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