Lifeguards increase stingray tally to 55, say remember the ‘stingray shuffle’

The tally for people treated for stingray stings in La Jolla reached 55 by the end of the day Wednesday, with the last one occurring at approximately 7:45 p.m., San Diego Lifeguard Lt. John Everhart said this morning.

Everhart said in addition to those reported at La Jolla Shores there were 14 stingray bites that occurred between Scripps Beach and Black’s Beach, bringing the total number reported in the La Jolla area to 69 for the day. He added three of those 69 victims were taken to the hospital for further treatment.

“Stingrays are an everyday occurrence along the Southern California coastline.,” cautioned Everhart. “With conditions like they are now, small surf and warm weather, it’s very unusual to have 55 at one beach, but it’s certainly not unheard of.”

Everhart said lifeguards do not keep daily records of stingray stings, adding it would be hard to say if yesterday’s large number at La Jolla Shores set any kind of record.

Del Mar and Solana Beach lifeguards reported only one stingray sting at each of their beaches yesterday.

Initally guards reported about 35 people were stung between 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.

“So many victims at once was pretty significant,” said San Diego Lifeguard Sgt. John Sandmeyer. “Usually by this time of day they’re scared out pretty far.”

Sandmeyer had his own theory about why there were so many stings.

“Three weeks of clouds kept the stingrays comfortable with not a lot of beach people,” he said. “All of a sudden yesterday it just clicked and everybody’s in the water. We had 20 (stings) yesterday and 35 up till now (today).”

Sandmeyer said one 21-year-old woman stung had severe enough blood loss to necessitate calling in medics.

“It was happening all up and down the coast for about an hour,” said San Diego Fire-Rescue Captain Thomas Morris, adding most sting victims weren’t doing the “stingray shuffle.”

“That’s the biggest thing we’re trying to tell people — how to shuffle their feet when they walk in the water,” he said.

Not shuffling his feet to ward off rays was a painful lesson for Jeff Budd of Poway.

“I was just walking in the water and getting ready for the next wave and I stepped in the wrong spot,” he said. “It was a sharp pain that just would not go away. It was getting kind of swollen and I thought, ‘I’d better come up here (station) and have them (lifeguards) take a look at it.’ ”

Mike Swift vacationing from Arizona also was stung by rays while surfing with his son.

“I’d stepped on about half a dozen of them today in about three hours in the water,” he said. “The last one hit me right in the arch of the foot. It was pretty bad today.”

Sandmeyer said the standard treatment for ray stings is to soak the victim’s appendage in water as hot as they can stand. The treatment is less effective, he said, if they have an allergic reaction similar to bee stings.

Sandmeyer said most stings are minor, but depending on where the victim gets hit — or how they react — the situation can become more dangerous.

“If you get significant blood loss or the barb broken off, it’s going to heighten the (medical) situation,” he said. "(Not today) I’ve seen barbs stuck in the foot to the point where they’re like emery boards. We don’t pull those out. Those are extreme cases. We let a medic do it.”