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Avoid Tragedy at the Beach

Avoid Tragedy at the Beach

Seminar Focuses on Sneaker Waves and Other Hidden Dangers

You’re going to the beach and you’ve packed sun screen, towels and other beach equipment. You know what the weather will be, but have you checked on what the tides will be that day?

Knowing the tide schedule at the beach your going to is critical. This information could save your life or that of one of your companions, according to Dr. Steven Zonner, a sports medicine expert and Washington Hospital’s Concussion Program director.

While many know rip tides can be dangerous, fewer have heard of sneaker waves. These waves appear suddenly on a beach where the water has been gently lapping on the shore. So called because it “sneaks” up on the beach, the sneaker wave is unexpected, large and strong, and it can knock an unsuspecting person off his feet and drag him out to sea in seconds.

Dr. Zonner will discuss sneaker waves, including how to identify beaches where they may occur, how to react if you experience a sneaker wave, and other important information about surviving sneaker waves at his 11 a.m., July 15 Washington Hospital online seminar: “Beach And Water Safety.” The free virtual seminar will take place on Facebook and YouTube. For more information or to register, visit www.whhs.com/events.

This Washington Hospital Health & Wellness seminar is co-sponsored by the Arunay Foundation. The Foundation honors Arunay Pruthi, a 12-year-old Fremont boy who was swept to sea in January 2021 while playing on a beach with friends and family. His body was never recovered. In an effort to prevent this type of tragic accident from happening to others, his family established the Arunay Foundation to increase awareness of dangerous tides along the coast.

Sneaker waves are common along the Northern California coast extending down past Big Sur and north up along the coast through Oregon and Washington. In the Bay Area, Baker Beach and Ocean Beach are particularly known for sneaker waves and rip tides.

Dr. Zonner recommends checking with the National Weather Service and/or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to learn about current tide conditions in the area you plan to visit. Tide information often is posted along beaches to warn visitors of conditions.

“It’s very important to check beach conditions in advance and to heed any warning signs you may see at the beach,” Dr. Zonner says. “It may save your life or that of a loved one.” And, he adds, never turn your back on the ocean. “The water can be lapping around your ankles one minute and up to your hips the next, knocking you over and sweeping you out to sea,” he explains.

“If you are swept off the beach by a sneaker wave, don’t fight it,” Dr. Zonner advises. “The best strategy is to relax and tread water until you no longer feel the pull of the tide and then try to swim back to shore. You may end up several hundred yards away from where you started but you should be safe.”

But, he adds: “The best way to stay safe is to learn about beach conditions before you go and to make sure you’ve taken all safety precautions while you are on the beach.”

Click here to view the seminar on our youtube InHealth channel.