If you’ve ever felt the agony of a stingray barb in the foot, you know that it is definitely something you want to avoid at all costs. On Friday, December 29th, in Huntington Beach, a record number of people found out how much it sucks first hand. Seventy-three people came begging for some kind of pain relief after accidentally stepping on the docile creatures.
“The pain is hundred times worse than the wound looks,” wrote Jeremy Searle in an open letter to stingrays a few years ago. “I’ve broken nine bones in my life and the wrath of your sting flat out hurts worse, you asshole.”
“We’re infested,” said Marine Safety Lt. Claude Panis to The OC Register on Saturday. “That’s just how many we treated. In my 40 years, that’s as many as I’ve had in a single day. It’s a problem.”
It’s a bit of a perfect storm in the waters off Surf City. Unseasonably warm water, low tides, and small surf coupled with holiday beachgoers was a recipe for disaster. It wasn’t just Friday, either—the day before, 45 people were assisted for stingray injuries. Things got so bad, in fact, that lifeguards stopped driving to the victims with gallons of hot water. Instead, they set up stations at their headquarters, and the people came to them. “They were just coming through the door rapid fire,” Panis explained.
It could get much worse, too. Surf City Splash, an event on New Year’s Day, routinely attracts hundreds of people to the pier. It’s estimated that somewhere around 400 people will show up for a swim on the first day of the new year, and lifeguards are worried. “People are going to go out and I’m thinking they will get stung,” Panis said.
Even Lee Love, the organizer of Surf City Splash, is nursing a couple of stingray wounds. In decades of swimming in the area, last week was the first time she’s ever been stung—and it was a doubleheader. “The first time, it was so painful, so excruciating,” she told The OC Register. “I was seriously screaming with pain. This year with the stingrays, we’re going to do the Surf City shuffle, instead of the Surf City Splash.”