Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Do the stingray shuffle to avoid nasty stings

You might sprint to the beach, but be sure to slow down and start shuffling as soon as your feet hit the water.

The warm currents of the Gulf of Mexico attract more than tourists to the beaches of Pinellas County. Summer is stingray season, which means it's time to do the stingray shuffle. The venomous barbs in their whiplike tails are painful if an unsuspecting beachgoer kicks or steps on one.

"I've seen grown men cry," said Clearwater Beach recreation supervisor J.P. Atherholt. "If one gets you good, it is very painful. But the good news is that it doesn't last very long."

In water as shallow as 10 or 12 inches, stingrays hide by burying themselves under a thin layer of sand, trying to remain unnoticed.

The best way to make sure stingrays steer clear of your feet is to slide your feet along the sand instead of taking big steps. The shuffling sends vibrations that scare away stingrays in the immediate vicinity, thus you won't accidentally step on one.

"The idea is to push the sand forward and cause a disturbance that displaces the stingray without you stepping on it," said Treasure Island fire Lt. Jeff Logsdon. "If you step on it, when you try to get away — that's when they get the barb in you."

Madeira Beach fire Lt. Steve Suranyi estimated that he has been on several hundred stingray calls. On any given day, there might be zero to 10 incidents, he said, but the numbers increase on weekends when there are more people at the beach.

Stingrays travel in schools and like to come up to shore between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., which is also when most people come to the beach, said Fort De Soto Park supervisor Jim Wilson. But the rays aren't out to get you — their barbed tails are just a defense mechanism.

Some victims report that the stings hurt worse than getting shot or even childbirth, Logsdon said. But treatment is easy and can get you back in the water in less than an hour, depending on the severity of the sting.

If you are stung, the best remedy is to soak the affected area in a bucket of water — "as hot as you can without burning your foot" — for about an hour and a half, said Dr. Anthony Acosta, medical director of the emergency department at Bayfront Medical Center. The heat will cause immediate pain relief.

Most snack bars and lifeguard stations have hot water and buckets ready for stingray incidents.

You could see some blood immediately after the sting, Suranyi said, and there might be a purple bump that lasts for a couple of days.

And although it is rare, head to the emergency room if the stingray leaves part of a barb behind. Do not attempt to remove it yourself.

Also seek immediate medical attention if you experience an allergic reaction or symptoms such as nausea or difficulty breathing.

"Don't let these things keep you from going in the water," Logsdon said. "Just be calm, be careful, and do the stingray shuffle."

Lauren Carroll can be reached at or (727) 893-8913. Follow @LaurenFCarroll on Twitter.

Do the stingray shuffle to avoid nasty stings 06/07/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 7, 2013 7:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest


    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]
  2. Mueller casts broad net in requesting extensive records from Trump White House


    WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering the president's private discussions about firing his FBI director and his response to news that the then-national security adviser was under …

    In a photograph provided by the Russian foreign ministry, President Donald Trump meets with Sergei Lavrov, left, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller is interested in this meeting, where Trump said dismissing FBI Director James Comey had relieved "great pressure" on him, the New York Times reported on Sept. 20. [Russian Foreign Ministry via  New York Times]
  3. 'We will find our island destroyed': Hurricane Maria demolishes Puerto Rico


    SAN JUAN — Sleepless Puerto Ricans awoke Wednesday knowing to expect a thrashing from the most ferocious storm to strike the island in at least 85 years. They met nightfall confronting the ruin Hurricane Maria left behind: engorged rivers, blown-out windows, sheared roofs, toppled trees and an obliterated electric …

    Rescue vehicles from the Emergency Management Agency stand trapped under an awning during the impact of Hurricane Maria, after the storm  hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Maria has lost its major hurricane status, after raking Puerto Rico. But forecasters say some strengthening is in the forecast and Maria could again become a major hurricane by Thursday. [Carlos Giusti | Associated Press]
  4. Obamacare repeal bill offers flexibility and uncertainty


    The latest Republican proposal to undo the Affordable Care Act would grant states much greater flexibility and all but guarantee much greater uncertainty for tens of millions of people.

  5. Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire 'private briefings' on 2016 campaign, report says


    Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, the Washington Post reports.

    Paul Manafort, then Donald Trump's campaign chairman, talks to reporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. [Associated Press]