Exercise caution as we enter the season of easy livin’

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 6/21/19

The summer solstice — when the Earth’s tilt toward the sun is at peak position, making it the year’s single longest day — is Friday, beginning 95 days of summer for us to enjoy until September 23, the first day of fall.

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Exercise caution as we enter the season of easy livin’

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Posted

The summer solstice — when the Earth’s tilt toward the sun is at peak position, making it the year’s single longest day — is Friday, beginning 95 days of summer for us to enjoy until September 23, the first day of fall.

The song says summer is the season when the “livin’ is easy.”

And though we do enjoy it, summer is probably our most treacherous season, too.

Recent reports from our North Carolina coast seem to affirm this. In just the last couple of weeks, two shark attacks have been reported on our coast and a third person sustained a non-life-threatening bite from an undetermined ocean critter.

WRAL reported a few days ago more than 50 rip current rescues along North Carolina’s stretch of the Atlantic Ocean. The dangerous coastal phenomenon has been blamed for at least six of eight drowning deaths on N.C. beaches already this season, and summer hasn’t even started.

It’s enough to make a rational person question the beach as a vacation destination.

But we’re drawn there, nevertheless.

While the odds are still very much in our favor of not drowning in a rip current and not being bitten by a shark, with or without the threat of undercurrents or a Great White the beach can present challenges ­— big and small — to our well-being.

I can’t count, for instance, how many cuts I’ve sustained on the bottom of my feet while enjoying an otherwise peaceful beach walk. Once, a shard of broken glass had me on the sidelines for the better part of a week’s vacation. It didn’t entirely slow me down, but it made walking in the sandy, salty setting a painful process I’d rather not repeat.

A couple of years ago, while showing off my body-surfing skills at Ocean Isle Beach, a mispositioned sandbar brought my ride to an abrupt halt, resulting in a nasty scrape to my forehead, which was leading the charge. As soon as it happened, I knew I’d sustained more than just a glancing blow; and knowing my wife would freak out, I stayed in the water as long as I could, dousing the flowing wound repeatedly with handfuls of salt water until I realized I was potentially acting as chum for the dreaded shark and I retreated to the safety of shore. As I emerged from the water, I saw the looks of concern (or was it horror?) on nearby beach-goers’ faces as I walked back to my towel and chair, the palm-sized scrape on my forehead dripping a sanguine mixture of ocean water and blood. I survived, but the scar left by the sandy scrape is still visible.

Not to brag, but my bouts with beach dangers over the decades also include a harrowing few minutes caught in a rip current. This was 10 or 12 years ago, on a beautiful summer mid-afternoon when, while demonstrating my swimming skills for those on shore, I found myself being rapidly pulled towards ever-deepening waters. I’m not sure I realized until later when I was safe on the beach again that I’d encountered a rip current; I just knew I was struggling and, despite my struggles, I was being carried in the wrong direction. I eventually got out of it and, though breathing heavily and exhausted, overall no worse for the experience. To my surprise, no one on shore ever batted an eye or otherwise seemed to notice that while they tanned, I’d been in a life-or-death struggle; but for that, I was grateful since the experience had the potential not only to be deadly but also embarrassing.

Factor in other potential threats — the sting of a jellyfish, the scissor-like pinchers of a crab, a jagged shell against the tender sole of a foot, the threat of collapsing decks, fly-away beach umbrellas, eating a bad clam, the list could go on and on — and the beach can be a pretty intimidating place to practice summer’s “easy livin’.”

Knowing all this, we’re ahead of the game. Take precautions. Watch where you step and what you step on. Be careful in the water. Don’t swim alone. Know, as I do now but didn’t then, the proper way to emerge from a rip current.

Due diligence can go a long way and help keep the hazards of the beach at bay. For the next 95 days, have fun and be careful.

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