The scene is straight from summertime. Miles of windswept beach shared only by soaring seagulls and a few love-struck couples. A lone sailboat glides through the frothy surf just offshore.
That is the stuff of Virginia Beach's tourist posters and promotional brochures. But it bears little resemblance to the Virginia Beach that police Officer David V. Golia says he sees five nights a week patrolling a stretch of T-shirt shops and traffic-choked streets along the Atlantic Ocean.
Golia's Virginia Beach is crammed with so many well-oiled bodies that Frisbee-playing on the sand has been outlawed as a safety hazard.
The Atlantic Avenue strip here frequently becomes so clogged with cars and trucks that teen-aged guys trying to pick up a carload of girls risk getting tickets for impeding traffic.
And police say the city manager brought his family down to the main drag for an evening of beachtime fun a few years ago and ended up in a fight with a bunch of rowdy drunks.
This year, with a $287 million tourist trade and 2.3 million visitors at stake, Virginia Beach's city and business leaders decided their resort had strayed too far from its tourist poster image.
Some fretted that the beach strip had become too tacky, with its seemingly endless offerings of souvenir stands and blur of neon signs. They even had the results of an image survey to confirm their fears.
Tourists complained that "the traffic was somewhat chaotic, there was too much drinking in public, blaring of radios, urinating in public -- presenting a poor image in certain areas," said James B. Ricketts, the city's tourism and development coordinator.
And if anyone doubted the poll, the first warm weekend of the summer provided conclusive evidence.
"All hell broke loose," said Lt. William Haden, who heads the special police units assigned to ride herd on the beachfront. "All the college kids came into town. We weren't there yet and the merchants went bananas."
The merchants long have controlled almost everything, both political and economic, that affects the oceanfront of Virginia's largest resort.
When they talk, city officials listen.
So the City Council ordered a crackdown on the crimes of summer. No loud music. No cursing in public. No cruising the strip in jacked-up, four-wheel-drive trucks.
"These people have been getting away with this for years," said officer Golia, 31, who has spent three summers on the beach. "Now they can't understand why they're getting a ticket."
To carry out the mandates of enforcing long-ignored laws, the city nightly floods the most raucous 10-block stretch of the strip with almost 40 police officers: officers on horses and motorbikes, officers on foot, officers in cars. That is more than double the number assigned to the main drag last summer.
"It is like a bunch of killer bees swarming all over," said Golia.
That is just what city leaders want local residents and tourists to think, especially the young "day trippers" who roll into the city for an afternoon of baking in the sun and a night of cruising the strip.
They are the ones business leaders blame for annoying the paying customers, the families who pay $110 a night for a room with a view of the surf.
Hotel owners say their guests do not want to be hassled by drunks on the street corners or awakened at 3 a.m. by loud music on the boardwalk or run down by errant bicyclists on crowded sidewalks.
"We just want to avoid any incidents," said Michael Savvides, who runs a beachfront hotel and a steak house on the strip.
"The young people are more adventurous, more apt . . . to offend some of the more conservative people. We're appreciative of the police making them behave."
Police say their blitz of ticket writing has helped tame the crowd of 165,000 tourists who are pulled to the resort on any particularly sunny weekend.
Since mid-May, police have recorded 3,818 traffic tickets, misdemeanor summonses and arrests, compared to 2,197 for the same period last summer.
Tickets are handed out for offenses ranging from the bizarre to the dangerous.
A sailor who did acrobatic forward rolls across the asphalt of Atlantic Avenue was cited for "playing in traffic."
Dozens of bicyclists are nabbed at the boardwalk every night for pedaling without headlights.
Drunks are routinely rounded up in the paddy wagon and brought to the beach's 2nd Precinct to dry out in a cell called "the bull pen."
But the arrests and tickets recorded for this summer include only 27 felony arrests.
And police and business leaders are quick to point out that the crackdown primarily targets the most popular and congested 10 blocks of the strip.
Within short drives of the commercial district where the high-rise hotels edge up against the ocean, there are miles of quiet, less-populated sand and surf with few of the headaches associated with the strip.
Even the boisterous crowds of the Atlantic Avenue strip have not deterred the sought-after family tourists, who are packing the hotels.
Some frequenters of the white sliver of a beach and its adjoining business strip say all this concern about image is infringing on their right to summertime fun.
Nobody was madder than the truck owners who spent all winter polishing and souping up their high-riding four-by-fours in preparation for the cruising season.
"It got a little nasty for a while," said attorney Gary C. Byler, who was hired by a group of the truckers to fight City Hall's ban on their vehicles during prime nighttime cruising hours.
As far as the City Council members were concerned, the monster machines balanced atop the chrome suspension systems and balloon tires were a menace to the little guys, the drivers of Toyotas and ragtops and Chevys blinded when the headlights of the high-riders bore into their rear-view mirrors.
"The truckers took it very personal when they were banned from the strip," said Byler, who led a demonstration the first weekend the city ordinance was enforced.
Local judges have sided with the truckers and have tossed out most of the tickets, saying the city ordinance conflicts with state law. And the truckers are on the road again.
"They add color to the strip," said Byler, whose brother, David, is one of the weekend cruisers.
"They're shined up and polished and have nice paint jobs. It's the beach. Atlantic Avenue has always been a showplace for fine vehicles," he said.
Atlantic Avenue is a showplace. Period.
As the waterfront dusk fades to dark, the crowds begin ambling off the sand and out of their air-conditioned hotel rooms. They move onto the sidewalks and into their cars.
And for the rest of the sultry summer night, into the early morning, they converge into one massive moveable party.
"A lot of these cars are rolling bars," said one officer as he steps to the curb, eyes stabbing the cavities of passing autos.
Some of the biggest tourist attractions on the beach are the people. This year the punkers who hang out at the broken-down sundial on the boardwalk draw the biggest crowds. Many want to take their kids' picture with Mike Viveiros, 17, of Manassas, whose thin Mohawk is sculpted into blond spikes. He charges a dollar for the pose.
Police call the punks "visual eyesores," with their pink hairdos and leather arm bands and men with pierced nipples.
They call themselves "family" and come from all over the East Coast. Many are runaways and keep their possessions in plastic garbage bags. Some come down to the beach with parents who own condos. Some are local kids looking for friends.
"We respect each other and accept everyone," said Alvin Calderon, 17, slipping his arm around his 14-year-old brother, Eric. "Even if you do have a piece of my bootstrap through your ear."
Back out on Atlantic Avenue, where only half a dozen cars can snake through each change of the light, officer Golia and his partner, Officer A. John Rombs, are on the prowl.
They spot two lanky teen-aged boys with their heads stuck through the window of a silver Datsun stalled in traffic and full of blond teen-aged girls.
"This is what you really call being a vulture," growled Golia, inching toward the scene. "If they move on when the light changes -- fine. If they don't, they all get tickets."
The light flashes to green, the long line of cars creeps to a slow roll, and the boys disappointedly pull their heads out of the car and step back from the curb, waiting for the next red light.
Golia and Rombs move on.
"If you want to pick up a girl, fine," muttered Golia. "As long as you do it on a red light."