I love a lot of things about summer, but my absolute favorite thing? The beach.

I’ll take as many beach days as I can get. Of course, all the gays love Fire Island—which is perfect if you have a place to stay and have at least the whole weekend to get away. However, when I just have a day to spare, or even just an afternoon, I always make my way to Jacob Riis Beach.

Preparing for the beach is always important. I have a checklist of essentials: swimwear (Nathan Ayon briefs), a large beach towel, sunscreen (the highest SPF I can possibly find), alcohol in a cooler (bottles of rose are my go-to), lunch and snacks (deli sandwiches are pretty easy to transport), whatever book I’m reading at the moment (“The Razor’s Edge” by W. Somerset Maugham) and some kind of game (deck of playing cards). I throw everything in an oversized beach tote and head for the train.

The last time I went, my friends had their own lists, adding: beach umbrella, portable phone charger, a beach mat to go under our towels, a Bluetooth speaker, bottles of water and a unicorn floaty (of course).

You want to arrive to Jacob Riis as early as you can shake your hangover to make sure you get a good spot: I like to claim my territory closest to the water for the best view (and close to the lifeguard, if you’re living your “Baywatch” fantasy).

What I love so much about Jacob Riis Beach is how diverse it is. You will see all ethnicities, all genders, all body types—all of us, just living our best lives for an afternoon away from the reality of the city. A group of 20-something twinks drank wine coolers behind us, an elderly gay couple sunbathed to our right and to our left a group of women with brightly colored hair had their breasts out, running back and forth between their towels and the water. One of their male friends had scars on both sides of his chest, and I reminded myself how lucky I am to be alive in a time when we can be proud to live our lives as our true selves.

My boyfriend got me to do something I’ve never done at Jacob Riis Beach: go into the water. I never go further than my knees—I’m just there to lay in the sun and collect seashells anyway. But my boyfriend went out as far as his toes could touch (three inches shorter than me, mind you) and begged me to come out with him. I went slowly, cowardly, jumping as every wave took over a little bit more of my body—but once I’d dunked my head under water, I didn’t want to leave. We stayed out in the water a long time, swimming and splashing and kissing.

Your next day off, I highly recommend Jacob Riis Beach. Just don’t forget the SPF!