"" Writer's Wanderings: What's Lurking At Your Beach?

Friday, May 30, 2014

What's Lurking At Your Beach?

The picture this past Memorial Day weekend of beach-goers on Lake Superior brought a smile. It punctuated the urgency to put this bad winter behind us. Lots of people roamed the beach and one brave soul waded spritely into the water only to rush out again. You see the water was full of little icebergs, leftovers that were still melting and keeping the water temperature down to hypothermic levels. Aside from hypothermia from exposure to low water temperatures, there are many things we should be wary of when planning our beach trips.

Rip tides. These dangerous undertows and currents can occur in lakes and oceans. Check for the posted warnings and if you should find yourself being carried out from the shore, remember to swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current and then swim at an angle back to the shore. Whatever you do, don't panic. You'll tire yourself out quicker.

Dangerous trash in the sand. If you are at a beach that is groomed daily this isn't as much of a problem but there are beaches where broken glass, needles, and other objects that can send you to the nearest ER lurk beneath the upper layer of sand. Best defense is to wear something on your feet. Try some thick soled flip flops, Crocs, or water shoes. Your feet will thank you for not putting them directly on the hot sand as well.

Danger in the water. Fresh water doesn't offer quite as much danger as do some parts of the ocean but often fresh water sandy beaches turn into rocky areas as you enter the water. Again, foot protection with some water shoes helps out there. If it's an area where people fish, you may also need that protection from hooks caught in the rocks. In the ocean, be aware that there could be sea urchins, more painful than a pin cushion if stepped on. Sharks are always a possibility and stingrays in some areas can be dangerous. Best to swim where there are lifeguards if you think that might be a problem. Their eyes are on the water for such things as well as swimmers in trouble.

Jellyfish. These critters come in all shapes and sizes. In Australia, the government warns swimmers to stay out of the water during Stinger Season October through May. This is when the large box jellyfish is prevalent along the beaches. These monsters come with a lethal sting that can cause a person to stop breathing if not treated at a hospital quickly. We were told within 30 minutes. While there are other species of jellyfish that are relatively harmless, they can cause an irritating sting. Some are so tiny that you don't even realize they are there until you feel the prickly sensation on your skin. The easiest treatment is a little vinegar on the affected area. If it turns ugly, see a doctor quickly.

Sun or Shade? If you choose sun, USE THAT SUN BLOCK!! Use at least 30 SPF and spray often. We sat all day on a beach at St. Maartin's Sunset Beach to watch planes fly low over the beach to land at the airport (I know, crazy, but fun) and we were concerned about not having any shade. We sprayed every half hour just to be sure we were protected and didn't have a problem. If you seek out the shade, which is what we usually do, be sure that shade doesn't come with coconuts overhead. One good thud on the head can put you out of commission for the rest of vacation if not, well, forever.

Vegetation. In and out of the water, there are often things in the area to be aware of that are harmful. Algal blooms, poisonous plants, etc. Best to ask the locals and/or the people at your accommodation. They'll be helpful. They want you to come back.

Don't let all this keep you away from the beach. It seems like a lot but for the most part, with a little common sense and some awareness of your surroundings, you will be able to shake off that horrible winter and enjoy some summertime adventure.

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