Beach Safety

View OPRD’s beach safety commercials featuring the Fitzwaters.

Rip Currents (2M QuickTime movie)
Log Roll (2M QuickTime movie)
Sneaker Wave (2M QuickTime movie)

Sneaker wave danger is more than just water

A personal account of the dangers of sneaker waves.

For over 20 years we have enjoyed the Oregon coast. We have walked the beaches and scurried away from larger waves as they mysteriously climbed the beach. One of our favorite Oregon beach activities is to get out of the constant wind by sitting on the south side of the jetty at Winchester Bay. High up the beach with the warm sunshine beaming down and the lulling roar of the ocean makes it is easy to drift off into a wonderful, peaceful nap.

NOT a good choice.

Even though we were a good 20 yards or more from the ocean we were awakened to find ourselves engulfed in a sneaker wave. Sneaker wave…. well it would better to call it a mini tsunami. It is a small, surging wall of water that carries a huge concentration of sand. Your clothes are instantly saturated with water and sand that increases your weight exponentially – way beyond your level of strength. You are engulfed in a surge mixture of water and sand like liquid cement so that your attempts to free yourself are somewhat futile as it rushes back to the ocean.

What saved us? The fact that this sneaker wave or little tsunami was just one wave and small enough the we could stand up, grab the jetty rocks and stay on the beach. An illustration of the weight gain is that the extra large beach towels we were sitting on seemed to weigh about 30 to 40 pounds each after the wave hit. So that coat you wear to shield yourself from the wind can become a weighted anchor or your death shroud if you are engulfed in a sneaker wave.

Moral of the story: Better to nap in the car or have someone serve as a lookout… and yes, like they say, never turn your back or close your eyes on the ocean.