Rphenning - that is awesome to meet another member from Ventura! We are really enjoying our time here now. That Mamiya 7 is one sweet camera, I am jealous! hehehe...maybe I will run into you doing beach / surf photography someday?

@everyone - thank you for all the suggestions, the waterproof cameras, Nikonos, etc. After looking at most of these this evening, I think they are just too wide angle for shots I'm envisioning. My mind is coming full circle to an SLR and a tele lens from either shore, the pier, a rock pile jetty, or if I'm real brave, maybe up to my knees or waist in the surf and holding my camera over my head when a big wave hits. Of course that last scenario is just asking for it, but had to throw it in there.

If I get a dedicated "beach use SLR", do you think the longevity will be any different with a pro weather sealed body (Maxxum 9, Nikon F5 type) vs a regular amateur body (Maxxum 7, Nikon F100, etc)?
I am not going to really baby it like I used to do with all my gear - I want to have some fun with this and enjoy it. Also, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between the brands at that level, so I'm thinking I'll just go with the Minolta since that's what I know, unless someone can give me a few relevant reasons to get a different brand?

Lastly, does anyone have any idea on the glass - say 300mm or so, if that would be enough reach?
Thanks everyone for the responses, it is giving me a lot to think about.