Students from schools like University of Memphis, University of South Carolina and Mercer University were gathered in the hot spots from Okaloosa Island to Walton County.
Coeds came out in droves Monday with their coolers, footballs and stereos to ring in the unofficial start of spring break.
Students from schools like University of Memphis, University of South Carolina and Mercer University were gathered in the hot spots behind the Whale’s Tail restaurant in Walton County, the Back Porch in Destin and the Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island.
A number of the students had an alcoholic beverage in hand, but several of them said they were mindful of the increased law enforcement presence. Deputies could be seen along the beaches in Walton and Okaloosa counties keeping a watchful eye on the rowdier groups of students. Electronic signs on the roads leading into Destin warned people about the zero-tolerance underage drinking policy being enforced by the sheriff's offices in both Okaloosa and Walton counties.
“I wouldn’t consider us your typical spring breakers,” said Jayme Allosso, a University of Memphis student who was sitting in a beach chair behind the Whale’s Tail with friends. “Last night we went grocery shopping and watched movies.”
“We don’t really get that crazy,” added her friend, Hannah Klein.
Behind them, a large group of coeds from the University of Georgia walked past carrying beer cans and Yeti cups. When asked what they planned to do at the beach all day, one male student yelled, “Get drunk!”
Just down the way at Crystal Beach in Destin, a group from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte was wading in the water. They said they planned to lawfully enjoy their time in Destin.
“We’re just relaxing and getting away from school. I had four exams,” said William Mitchell. “Some of us are drinking, sure, the older people are.”
Behind the Back Porch in Destin, the crowd of students gathered was raucous but wary after witnessing a female student get put in handcuffs and taken away for underage drinking.
“We just saw a girl get arrested,” said Griffin Jones, a student at Middle Tennessee State University.
“We’re not getting in any trouble this week,” said his friend, Daulton Mason, also a student at MTSU, located in Murfreesboro. “We’re just hanging out and having fun with friends, sober. We’ll hang out here and at the pool.”
Debbie Wilson, from Indiana, was accompanying her college-aged niece to Destin for spring break. She said, in general, she was having a good spring break and not seeing too many people get in trouble.
“Oh, I love it. I love all these kids,” Wilson said. “It’s a beautiful beach and everyone out here is very well-behaved. They’re not starting any trouble. And I love looking at the young guys here, cause I’m single and old.”
Monday saw sunny skies but high winds along the beaches. A red flag flew on Okaloosa Island, a yellow flag was up in Destin and double red flags closed the Gulf of Mexico to swimming in Walton County, where lifeguards patrolled beaches prohibiting people from entering the water.
Emmeline Ranger of Destin was sitting on the beach with her friends in-between a beach chair hut and storage locker, protecting herself from the wind. She expects to see larger crowds on the beach as the week goes on.
“It’s only day one,” Ranger said. “That’s all I have to say.”