As beautiful and majestic as stingray are, they can defend themselves with a sharp, venomous sting when threatened. When you’re gearing up for a dive, you might be wondering whether your wetsuit can provide protection from stingrays.
Wetsuits do not offer sufficient protection from stingray barbs, though they do provide protection against other potential threats like jellyfish stings, sharp corals, and the cold. The best way to protect yourself from stingrays is to keep your distance, never swim over them, and practice the stingray shuffle when walking along the ocean floor.
In this article, we’ll discuss the effectiveness of wetsuits in shielding against stingray punctures and explore some general safety tips for interacting with these sea beings.
What Material Are Wetsuits Made Of and Can It Withstand a Stingray’s Barb?
Your wetsuit is typically made from foamed neoprene, a synthetic rubber material that provides insulation and protection when you’re participating in water sports or other activities in the water.
Unfortunately, standard neoprene wetsuits do not offer enough protection against the serrated barbs of stingrays. These barbs can easily penetrate the neoprene material and cause deep lacerations or puncture wounds.
Although the primary purpose of a wetsuit is to provide thermal insulation, it also offers some defense against abrasions, ultraviolet exposure, and stings from marine organisms like jellyfish. However, this level of protection is not sufficient to withstand a stingray’s barb, which can measure anywhere from 8 to 15 inches in length.
The best way to avoid a stingray injury is to maintain a safe distance from these creatures and not provoke an attack. Observe them from afar and enjoy the wonders of marine life a safe distance away.
Do Thicker Wetsuits Offer Better Protection Against Stingrays?
When you’re considering a wetsuit for water activities, you may wonder if a thicker wetsuit provides better protection against stingrays. Thicker wetsuits technically do, but unfortunately, they don’t provide much more protection against stingrays compared to thinner versions.
Stingray barbs are incredibly sharp and easily penetrate through various materials, including the neoprene or rubber of your wetsuit, regardless of its thickness. However, the probability of getting attacked by a stingray is extremely low, as they usually only strike when they feel threatened or provoked.
Choosing the right wetsuit for you should depend on factors such as the water temperature and the type of water activity you’ll be participating in. There is no point in even considering whether the wetsuit you’re buying can withstand a stingray barb because, well, it can’t.
One of the benefits of wearing a wetsuit, regardless of thickness, is that it can help shield your skin from minor cuts, stings, and abrasions from rocks or other marine creatures, and of course keep you warm in cold water. For these purposes, yes, a thicker wetsuit can provide more protection.
However, you should remember the primary purpose of a wetsuit is to keep you warm and protected from cold water, sunburn, or rashes rather than to serve as a barrier against potentially harmful sea animals.
Are There Special Gear That Can Protect Against Stingray Barbs?
The closest product to being a “stingray-proof” wetsuit are the shark-proof chainmail suits that make you look like a cross between a scuba diver and a medieval knight.
The chainmail can supposedly stop a shark’s teeth from puncturing your skin (though it cannot stop the force of the bite), so it can perhaps be effective at stopping a stingray’s barb.
Not only has there not been a brave soul willing to test it out, but an underwater chainmail suit can cost upwards of $7,500 USD, so there are a lot of barriers of entry.
The next closest thing are dive booties made by a company called DragonSkin, which claims that their product can offer anywhere from 50% to 90% protection against stingray stings.
What Other Precautions Can I Take to Prevent Stingray Stings
When it comes to avoiding stingray stings, there are several measures you can take to reduce the risk during your water activities.
The best strategy of all is to always maintain a safe distance from stingrays. Be mindful of your surroundings and avoid swimming directly over them. Stingrays often bury themselves in the sand, so shuffle your feet along the ocean floor to avoid stepping on one and alert them to your presence.
This technique is known as the “stingray shuffle.” Instead of stepping normally, slide your feet through the sand as you walk in the water. This movement alerts stingrays of your presence, giving them a chance to move away before you accidentally step on them. Remember, stingrays typically do not attack unless they feel threatened or provoked.
It’s a good idea to wear proper footwear while engaged in water activities. Consider using water shoes or surf booties to offer some protection for your feet. Though these options won’t completely protect you from a stingray’s barb, they may reduce the likelihood of injury should you encounter one.
In addition to footwear, you may come across materials like Kevlar that claim to offer protection against stingray barbs. While these materials might be more resistant, they’re not foolproof. The best strategy is still to be cautious and practice the stingray shuffle when you’re in their natural habitat.
Always be aware of the potential for stingrays in the habitat you’re visiting. Research the area and listen to advice from locals or tour operators about where these creatures may be found.
What Should I Do if I Get Stung by a Stingray?
If you get stung by a stingray through your wetsuit, the first thing you should do is get out of the water and assess the severity of the injury.
If the sting is deep or in a sensitive area, you should seek immediate medical attention. Stingray stings release neurotoxins that can cause pain, swelling, and even lead to complications if not treated properly.
Once you’re out of the water, try to clean the wound and remove any debris as soon as possible. Washing the area thoroughly with soap and water can help reduce the risk of infection. If you’re experiencing severe pain, soaking the wound in hot water can provide some relief. Remember, the water should be as hot as you can comfortably tolerate but not scalding.
Pain from stingray stings can also be accompanied by nausea and muscle cramps. In such cases, it’s essential to stay hydrated and rest until you can receive medical help. If you notice symptoms such as vomiting, fainting, low blood pressure, or abnormal heart rhythms, this could indicate a more severe reaction.
Whether you experience minor or severe symptoms from a stingray sting, you should seek medical attention regardless just to be safe.