Smaller surf and less of it? Nope. I'm talking about stingrays. The gremlins of the ocean who always appear right around now as the tides drop out to negative lows and water temps climb up into the low 70s. These creatures are nasty, and it has already been near an epidemic year for people getting stung by them.
Beach breaks are the most likely place to run into them, but sand pockets in the reefs can harbor these little land mines as well. Though the wound that they inflict is usually just a small laceration, the pain can be a very serious thing to deal with. On rare occasions, the stingray’s barb can actually break off inside of the victim’s body, so great care must be taken to make sure none of this foreign matter is left in the wound.
Treatment for a wound is somewhat limited. It normally consists of putting the damaged area water into as hot as can be tolerated, then adding hot water at regular intervals. I have been told that the poison from the barb is protein based. Down in Mexico, the locals will squeeze lemon juice into the affected area as a way to help neutralize the nasty stuff.
Some people can handle the pain better than others, just as some wounds are worse than others. My experiences with being stung have been somewhat lucky, I'd say. The initial sensation was a quick prick and a burning sensation. As the body starts to react to the venom, I felt that burn grow quickly in intensity and start to spread up my leg. Even with a hot-water soaking, the pain remained steady for nearly three hours. The affected area remained sensitive to the touch or occasional rub for a few weeks after the incident.
In 50-plus years of ocean enjoyment, I have only been hit two times. But that’s still more than enough to remind me to stay vigilant at any time of the year while walking out to surf. I shuffle my feet as much as possible.
I know a few guys who will slap at the top of the water in an effort to scare the critters away. How effective this can be is unknown.
In any event, walk soft and slow,