Stingrays. While Diving in the shallow waters it’s not unusual for scuba divers to come across these fascinating diamond-shaped beauties sweeping the sandy floors of the water. They have earned an irrational reputation among divers and surfers as vicious creatures after one of them took the life of our beloved wildlife icon Steve Irwin.
Despite the bad reputation, the chances of you getting stung by one of them are way lower than you think. Mind you, I said the chances are low, not zero. So taking precautions against them would indeed be a wise thing.
Statistically, Stingrays are most likely to sting in the lower limb region of Divers and Swimmers. So you may be wondering what sort of lower body protections you can take to diminish your chances of being on the receiving end of the stinger while diving. Are your scuba boots thick and sturdy enough to stop the barbed stinger? In this article, I’ve gathered all the information you need regarding that.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Common Are Stingray Attacks Actually? What do The Stats Say
- 2 Can Stingrays Sting Through Your Diving Boots?
- 3 How to Protect Your Feet from Stingrays? Tips to Avoid Getting Stung
- 4 What to Do if You Encounter a Stingray While Scuba Diving? Some Helpful Tips to Keep in Mind
- 5 Final Thoughts
How Common Are Stingray Attacks Actually? What do The Stats Say
So, how common are stingray attacks actually? Actual stingray attacks are relatively rare. In fact, they are much less common than shark attacks.
According to the International Shark Attack File, there are an average of 1,500 documented stingray injuries each year in the United States. However, it’s important to note that not all of these injuries are due to stingray attacks. Many of them are accidental injuries caused by stepping on or bumping into stingrays that are buried in the sand.
While injuries from Stingrays do happen, sometimes deaths caused by Stingrays are extremely rare. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, there have only been 17 recorded stingray fatalities worldwide since 1959.
Despite the “Stingray Stigma” surrounding them, stingrays are inherently gentle and shy creatures that keep to themselves. It reserves its stinger for its predators or those it deems to be a threat like sharks and other large carnivorous fishes.
Can Stingrays Sting Through Your Diving Boots?
Stingray attacks are more likely to happen to divers who are entering or exiting the ocean through shallow water and accidentally step on a stingray lurking in the sands. So does wearing diving booties or water shoes offer any degree of protection against the stingers?
Diving boots are made of neoprene and can go up to a maximum thickness of 7mm. That’s nowhere near thick or sturdy enough to stop a stingray’s stinger from penetrating the boots if you accidentally step on one.
Practically speaking, your scuba boots and dive fins are not at all effective in protecting you from the barbed stinger of stingrays.
During my diving adventure in the Cayman Islands’ famous stingray city, I had the misfortune of getting stung by an Atlantic stingray. I was wearing 5mm dive boots and thick dive socks underneath but the nasty stinger pierced right through. The pain was excruciating but it could’ve been much worse if not for my snug-fitting dive boots that somehow deflected the stinger a little. Otherwise, it would’ve entirely pierced deeper into my lower left calf.
So unless you are wearing metal armor there’s zero chance you’re gonna stop those foot-long stingers with your neoprene boots or dive fins. At best you can deflect the barbed stinger if you are lucky enough like me.
What About Dive Booties? Are They Any Effective?
Dive booties are a mix between dive socks and dive boots as they typically have soft neoprene upper halves and hard bottom soles. Dive Booties are an excellent choice for divers who are prone to develop friction blisters due to chafing.
Although dive booties provide absolute protection from rough surfaces, sharp rocks, coral reefs, and even jellyfish stingers they cannot protect your feet from the several inches long barbed stinger of a stingray.
But due to being more flexible and comfortable than traditional dive boots, diving booties can help you do the stingray shuffle better which is your best and most effective bet against stingrays.
How to Protect Your Feet from Stingrays? Tips to Avoid Getting Stung
The stingray shuffle is one of the most effective methods that is recommended for avoiding stingrays while wading through the water.
What Is a Stingray Shuffle? How effective is it against stingrays?
The stingray shuffle is a simple walking technique that you can use while wading in shallow water to help scare away nearby stingrays. By scaring them away, you decrease the risk of stepping on them and getting stung.
Just slide your feet with force along the bottom rather than actually picking them up, and scatter a lot of small rocks and debris with your feet. That way any ray in the area will sense the vibrations in the sand and move away before you get within its strike range. This is the most effective technique to avoid stingrays, especially in shallow waters.
So, next time you’re in the shallow waters in a known stingray habitat make sure to constantly shuffle your feet.
Does Stomping Your Feet Work?
I learned this dive hack from my lifeguard buddy. The effectiveness of this tip is based on my personal experience. Apart from scuba diving, I often dive for lobster hunting in shallow waters. There are always stingrays out there and more than a few I’ve come this close to them. When a ray is within a vicinity of 10 feet (or even 5 feet) away, shuffling my feet does nothing. Instead when I stand in one place and stomp my feet hard, the rays seem to sense the vibration and they swim away quicker.
What to Do if You Encounter a Stingray While Scuba Diving? Some Helpful Tips to Keep in Mind
So now you know how to avoid rays in shallow waters. Now what about encountering one in the midst of your dive? Here are some do’s and don’ts you must follow as a scuba diver if you ever happen to encounter a stingray:
- Keep a safe distance: When diving near stingrays, do maintain a safe distance to avoid disturbing or spooking them. Experts recommend a distance of at least 3 meters.
- Stay calm and relaxed: Stingrays are generally docile creatures and will only attack if they feel threatened or cornered. Stay calm and relaxed while diving and avoid sudden movements which may startle them.
- Stay still if approached: If a stingray approaches you, stay still and let it swim past you.
- Practice good buoyancy control: Good buoyancy control is important when diving with stingrays. It helps you avoid accidentally kicking up sand and disturbing the surrounding environment.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Stingrays often stay camouflaged and blend in with the sand or rocks on the ocean floor. Keep an eye out for them and maintain situational awareness.
- Do not touch or approach: It’s important to never touch or approach a stingray. While they may seem friendly, they can become defensive if they feel threatened or cornered.
- Do not crowd around them: Remember, you’re approaching their territory. Crowding around a ray can often make it feel threatened.
- Don’t corner or trap them: Avoid trapping or cornering a stingray as it can cause them to become defensive and potentially aggressive.
- Don’t feed them: Feeding stingrays can alter their natural behavior and cause them to become dependent on humans for food. This can lead to dangerous encounters in the future.
- Don’t wear bright and shiny colors: Avoid wearing anything bright or shiny as it can attract the attention of stingrays and other marine life, potentially leading to an accidental encounter.
Till now there are no known diving accessories including boots and fins that can provide you protection from the stinger of a ray. As said earlier, the odds of getting barbed by a stingray are very low. To top it off, if you exercise caution and be respectful of their boundaries the chances become even lower.
That being said, it’s important to remember that stingrays are not out to get us – they are simply trying to defend themselves from perceived threats. By respecting their space and behavior, we can coexist with these elegant creatures and awe of their wonderful existence.