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Shellers Come in Different Varieties: Slow, Speedy, Methodical, or Social?

Jul 14, 2021 03:30PM ● By CAPT. BRIAN HOLAWAY

Seashells, seashells 

Up and down the beach 

So many colors, shapes and sizes 

Some just out of reach 

Others are treasured beach surprises 

Seashells, seashells, seashells 


People come from all over the world to witness, search for, relish and collect seashells on the beaches of Southwest Florida. For more than 25 years, I have had the opportunity and pleasure to walk, talk and listen to shellers on the beach of all different creeds, countries, sizes, shapes and ages. Each sheller has his or her own way of shelling. Some see the shapes of shells, while others look for the color. Behind every shell collection is a different type of sheller. 

What I have observed over the years is that people have different approaches to finding seashells on the beach. Maybe you fall into one of the categories described here, or maybe you have one all your own. That is the beauty of shelling—it can be all your own technique, style and pace. 


The Speedy Sheller 

The speedy sheller likes to take off at a fast pace to get ahead of any other shellers on the beach. The fast sheller may not always get the best shells, though, because speeding down the beach can mean speeding right by a treasure. I once observed a group of shellers take off for a brisk walk around the tip of Sanibel to explore the miles of beach lying in front of them. I watched as the group moved down the beach one in front of the other, each trying to get ahead of the next person. As I looked just to the left of where the group raced by, there sat a coveted junonia, entirely overlooked.  

The Slow Sheller 

We all know this one—the sheller who takes his or her own sweet time, walks at a slow pace and soaks everything in. This sheller might not go far, but shelling is not about how far you go—it is about finding the shells you are attracted to. The slow-paced sheller enjoys the journey and usually “gets the goods.” Slow shellers are my favorites as shelling guides. 


The Sitting Sheller 

Then there is the sitting sheller. This sheller loves nothing more than to settle down on a pile of shells and sift through them one handful at a time. This methodical process is total Zen for the sitting sheller, who can spend hours rummaging through a pile. This type of sheller experiences the joy of finding mini shells and reaps the rewards of uncovering prized shells that other shellers may have overlooked. 


The Social Sheller 

Finally, there is the newer participant I call a social media sheller. These shellers have just started their pursuit in recent years since the advent of social media. They see the best shell treasures posted online and want to find everything on their very first walk on the beach. The new sheller often is looking for prized shells such as a Scotch bonnet, a pair of angel wings, a lion’s paw and, of course, a junonia. As a shelling guide, I try my best to teach all shellers a little about the art of shelling, but especially new shellers to help them enjoy the process, pace and journey of finding a crown jewel, which may take years of combing the beaches.  

Whatever type of sheller you may be, remember to be patient and appreciate the beauty of the beach, smelling the salt air, listening to the water caress the beach, feeling the textures of the shells and valuing the treasures that nature has washed ashore. 

I often think of this quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh when I am meandering back and forth where the shore meets the sea: 

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beachwaiting for a gift from the sea. —Anne Morrow Lindbergh 


Capt. Brian Holaway is a Florida master naturalist and has been a Southwest Florida shelling and eco-tour guide since 1995. His boat charters visit the islands of Pine Island Sound, including Cayo Costa State Park, Cabbage Key, Pine Island and North Captiva.