Last weekend I had the unfortunate experience of getting stung by a stingray and man was it an experience I could do without. I was surfing the beach breaks in Del Mar, San Diego with two friends. We got in the water early because we had to get in a session before work. The water was warm, so I wore trunks and a wetsuit top. I brought several different foam boards for my friends to test out including my two favorites, an 8-Foot Wavestorm and a 7-foot Storm Blade.
As we stepped from the dry sand and into the ankle-deep water, my friend pointed out a stingray that was swimming back into the ocean from the shallows. It was about a foot across, and a light gray color. We watched as it scurried into the whitewater, obviously spooked by our presence. It went without saying that today we would all be “stingray shuffling” from that moment on.
The stingray shuffle is a phrase used to describe the act of sliding your feet along the sand as you walk in the ocean water. This sliding motion is done as opposed to picking up your feet off the sand, moving forward, and placing them back onto the sand (or an unsuspecting stingray). The idea is that the vibrations from your feet sliding on the sand scares away any stingrays that might be lying in your path.
So, there we were, sliding our feet as we made our way into the waves. About 1 hour and 1 epic Wavestorm session later, I found myself swimming into shore to retrieve my board which had gotten away from me. I managed to bodysurf a wave into about chest-deep water. As I went to put my feet down to jump into the next wall of whitewater coming at me. I felt a little wriggle below my left foot and then a sharp pain right in the arch of my foot.
I knew right then and there that my luck was up. I had gone 28 years without getting nailed by a stingray, but my moment had finally arrived. I was long overdue. I thought to myself, “Wow, that wasn’t that bad,” and I continued towards the shore, being extra careful not to lift my feet again.
It took about 5 minutes for the pain to set in, and for me to realize that getting stung was no joke. I immediately headed for the lifeguard headquarters, which just happened to be in front of where we were surfing. I asked if they had any hot water and showed them the bottom of my foot which at this point had a small trickle of blood coming out of the inch-long slice where the barbed stingray stinger entered my foot. They took me to a corner and filled a bucket with enough scalding hot water to cover my foot, and they added a little bleach “to help disinfect the cut.”
By the time the bucket was full of hot water, my foot had really begun to hurt. The most incredible sharp, burning pain sensation had overtaken my foot and had begun traveling up my ankle. This was a serious, gut-wrenching pain of the likes I had only experienced a few times in my life.
Over the course of the next hour and a half, I would repeatedly empty and refill the bucket with the hottest water I could possibly handle to help neutralize the venom that had entered my foot. Several times I tried to leave, but no matter how bad I wanted to tough it out and get to work, I could not tolerate having my foot out of the water longer than a couple of minutes. The hot water helped make the pain somewhat tolerable. I had to call in sick.
I ended up hanging out in the lifeguard tower for around 2 hours all said and done. By that point, the pain had subsided to just a throbbing, burning feeling that I could tolerate without the hot water, although I had to limp over to my car. My foot was completely red and swollen, much like the allergic reactions to bee stings I had as a kid.
When I finally got home, I rinsed the wound out with clean water and applied an antibiotic ointment onto the cut. The rest of the day I walked around with a slight limp, nothing very noticeable.
One week later, the cut and blister that developed around the cut are nearly healed, though the area around the cut is noticeably firmer than the rest of my foot. At night I get itching attacks where the area around the cut itches incredibly bad.
If you have already been stung, I feel for you. If you haven’t been stung, make sure to stingray shuffle always and avoid getting stung at all costs. If you have just been stung and stumbled on this article, get to a lifeguard tower as soon as possible, you are in for a wild ride.