Stingrays zap as many as 10 people at Clearwater Beach

Remember to do the stingray shuffle
Posted at 5:35 PM, Aug 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-19 14:55:31-04

You may be planning a beach weekend, but make sure to check the flags. In Clearwater, a purple flag flies high, warning beach-goers marine life could be close to shore.

That's not keeping anyone out of the water, but even a snorkeler may not see who's hidden in the sand.

"You go in the water and do the sting ray shuffle," Eileen Nelson said.

She has been in the water at Clearwater Beach nearly every day the last few years, and the threat of stings won't stop her.

"You just slide your feet across the sand, and that uses the vibrations so the stingrays will go the other way," she said.

That's what lifeguards suggest as well, the day after sting rays zapped as many as 10 people. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt.

"We're going into their environment, we're by accident stepping on or near 'em," Patrick Brafford, water safety supervisor with Clearwater Beach, said.

It's normal to see more stingrays when the heat goes up in the summer.

“As temperatures rise each summer, it’s natural for us to see more stingrays in the water as it is their breeding season. With more guests in the area during the beach-going season, a rise in stingray stings among swimmers is common during the hottest months of the year,” Don Stansell, biologist and water quality manager with Clearwater Marine Aquarium, said. 

“The easiest way to avoid being stung is to shuffle your feet as you head out into the water. The churning sand alerts the animal that you’re heading in their direction, so they can move away safely,” he said.

Lifeguards try to spot stingrays, but it's not easy.

"It's hard to see anything on the bottom, especially the ones we encounter. Southern sting rays [are] rather small, so as bad as it sounds, we kind of wait on the injuries per se to start," Brafford said.

Just remember to shuffle your feet out of the water and you'll likely be just fine.