Having been hit by stingrays 4 separate times, I have become somewhat of a first-person authority on stingrays and stingray injuries.
How to avoid stingray injuries:
There is zero evidence that “shuffling your feet” works to deter stingrays.
The Internet, most surfers and many lifeguards all believe in and repeat an old wives’ tale: Namely that if you shuffle your feet, you’ll scare away the stingrays and prevent getting injured.
They call this the stingray shuffle.
Despite this being a recommended avoidance behavior in scientific literature, I am aware of zero scientific evidence that suggests shuffling your feet actually deters stingray injuries.
The Orange County Register reported on the record stingray injuries in Huntington Beach in 2012: As of some point in early November, there were 438 injuries. Again, this was in Huntington Beach alone. Replicate this estimate through the state of California, and you’re looking at thousands of injuries each year.
Given this number, don’t you think there should be some scientific research performed on this oft-repeated advice?
I know shuffling doesn’t work from personal experience. I’ve been hit by stingrays 4 times. I was shuffling my feet 3 out of 4 of those times.
I would guess shuffling your feet is better than nothing, but let me tell you a better avoidance behavior, one that I’ve actually witnessed working dozens of times.
Stomping your feet does work.
Quite often I dive for lobster in shallow areas. There are always stingrays out there. So I’ve seen this in person:
When a ray is 10 feet (or even 5 feet) away – shuffling does nothing.
Stomping my feet, the rays seem to sense the vibration – and they swim away with a quickness.
It’s worth noting that there are lifeguards who have run through the surf every day of their lives for 40 years and have never been stung.
When I surf now, I slowly and carefully enter the water, and I stomp my feet repeatedly until I get on the board. And I get on the board as soon as possible!
The topic of “shuffling vs stomping” could definitely use some scientific research, and it would be a great thesis for any marine biology student. For now, take it as a highly-likely, educated theory.
Soon, I will be posting a video to this page demonstrating the difference in stingray behavior when shuffling vs. stomping.