Category: Pacific-Northwest

Sneaker wave

Ah, the beach, the ocean, the gentle waves. So pleasant on a rare sunny day in Oregon to cavort in the surf of our public beaches. But beware, for the ocean is without feeling and cares not whom or what is pulled into the watery deep.

Visitors to Oregon beaches are advised to be aware of sneaker waves. A sneaker wave is an unexpectedly large wave, higher, stronger and reaching farther up the beach. Beach goers can quickly be caught in the undertow and pulled out to deep water. Sneakers frequently toss around large driftwood logs that may fall on a person, injuring or even killing the unlucky. Every summer the local media is filled with reports of tragedy on the Oregon beaches as unfortunate visitors, often small children are caught by sneaker waves.

Even as the ocean appears calm, every third or fourth wave has the potential to be a sneaker. Larger waves, moving fast, pick up smaller waves and carry them toward the beach. Some people erroneously think that sneaker waves can be counted as every fourth or fifth wave, but in truth they are unpredictable.

© 2001-2006, originally published Jun 20, 2001