By Alex Wright, National Post

Except for the fact that the trees were still naked and the people were still mostly clothed, you could mistake yesterday’s mid-March thaw for a midsummer’s day on Toronto’s beaches. Under clear blue skies with the thermometer pushing 18C — while the average for today is closer to 10C — people flocked by the hundreds to enjoy the weather at Balmy Beach and Kew Beach off Queen Street East.

There were seniors and sailors, bikers and boarders, dog-walkers and sun-blockers. There were March breakers and photo-takers, kids and kites, water-waders and rollerbladers. A man in a fiery orange shirt and blue sunglasses who only identified himself as James was balancing rocks into impossible-looking columns beside the boardwalk. He said he’s been doing it on beaches all over the world since he first saw someone stacking stones in Vancouver years ago.

“I’m just having fun today,” he said. “It’s gorgeous, I can’t believe it’s the middle of March. Everyone’s so polite, it’s great to see.”
Although he’s unemployed, James said that, “When it’s a beautiful day like this I don’t want to sit in front of a computer all day and look for jobs, I can do that at night or when the weather isn’t good.”

An older man read the paper topless with a diamond-studded cross hanging from his neck. Down the beach, Ron Arsenault, 53, who drives school buses, was flying three gigantic parachute-like kites. The Toronto District School Board had him doing odd jobs during March Break, but he finished work early and came to the beach.

“First time out this year,” he said, adding that the weather was beautiful and people were friendly. He was, however, wishing for more wind. Out at the end of a rocky breakwater a couple embraced and swayed side to side.

Semi-retired construction worker Richard Busch, 51, came to the beach with his camera and its long lens to take pictures and gather his thoughts. He snapped photos of birds off the pier and a raccoon up a tree.

“It’s a perfect day for it,” he said, and he wasn’t just there to observe the animal wildlife.

“I love just coming down here and people watching,” he said. “Sitting on a bench and watching is a great sport.”

Grade 3 teacher Nadine Bobbett, 29, sat on a driftwood log and read while her husky pawed at the sand. “It’s fantastic, it’s nice to be outside,” she said. “My dog loves the sun, so I took my book and came here to get some vitamin D."

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