The Coast News Group
Even if you don’t have an allergic reaction to its venom, an encounter with a stingray can cause a world of hurt. Stock image

Scariest sea creature you’re likely to meet

Some credit increased shark sightings to more people being in the ocean. 

Others say it’s because stand-up-paddlers, with their high angle, are able to get a clear view of everything beneath the surface.

Still others say it’s because the shark’s diet is being devastated by commercial fishing and pollution and sharks are being forced to find nourishment in shallower water. I don’t know.

I have seen predatory sharks near shore twice in my 60 years of surfing: once while free diving in La Jolla, and once while surfing in Western Australia. 

Both times they swam away, and even now I don’t think about them biting me. I’m not saying that never happens, but the possibility of being bitten by a shark is about the same as being struck by lightning.

Other sea creatures in my opinion are more problematic, even though not life-threatening. Topping the list of the animals we would rather not contact are jellyfish and stingrays. 

Let’s take jellyfish first. While they are not fish, these invertebrates are, as their name suggests, gelatinous. 

Regardless of their pain-inducing reputation, however, I’ve found the jellyfish sting to be far less painful than that of a bee. 

Of course, there are exceptions, like the man o’ war which, thankfully, is not common along our coastline.

The jellyfish we encounter here are more annoying than pain inducing. Basically, think of them as the mosquitoes of the sea. 

Whenever you get bitten by a stingray… Okay, what’s wrong with that sentence? Stingrays, while they do have teeth, pose little danger to humans with them.

As anyone who’s ever been stung will tell you, the big pain is at the other end, in the tail. A stingray’s tail is long and tapered like a whip. The tail has barbed and venomous spines; the sting can be incredibly painful.

As most of you already know, shuffle your feet when you can’t see the bottom as rays camouflage themselves in shallow sand. 

While rare, it is possible to have a life-threatening allergic reaction to stingray venom. If that happens, call 911 as you will need emergency medical care. 

If you are not allergic, however, you are still facing a world of hurt. Soaking the affected limb in hot water kills stingray venom and shortens the duration of the pain.

I am also told that white vinegar and meat tenderizer when applied topically to the wound will neutralize a stingray’s pain. (That information is unverified, so please check with a medical professional before using either of those ingredients.) 

Once you’ve relieved the pain, apply antibiotic ointment or cream to the wound and cover it with gauze. 

I have been stung twice by stingrays. The first time was so painful I felt I was knocking on death’s door. The second time was no more painful than a barbed nail ripping into my foot. 

I have since become exceptionally cautious in warm, shallow water. I am especially concerned with kids running the sandy shallows. 

Some of them will never return to the beach because of the pain inflicted once upon a time by a stingray.


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