Shore Break Warning:

Recently, Handihelp received several hits from the U.S. Virgin Islands. How ironic, since that is where I became a quadriplegic. My "accident" was caused by a condition that was known about yet almost no information about it was available to the public. The condition is known as Shore Break. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) state " ... shorebreak is an ocean condition when waves break directly on the shore. Shorebreaks are unpredictable and dangerous. They have caused many serious neck and spinal injuries to both experienced and inexperienced bodysurfers and swimmers. Both small and high surf can be equally as dangerous and can cause serious injury or death. Be sure to ask a lifeguard about the wave conditions at the beach."


I was struck by a wave while on vacation on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands. I had been body surfing for several hours, but at the time of my injury I was just standing in waist deep water. A wave lifted me and I was driven to the bottom breaking four vertebrae in my neck. Unknown to most people the condition exists on many islands, especially in Hawaii. This hazard is created by the configuration of the ocean bottom leading up to the beach. When conditions are right, such as wind direction and wave speed etc. waves can break very close to the shore and in a vertical (straight up and straight down) direction. Anyone caught in that type of wave risks the possibility of serious injury. The beach where I was is called Cinnamon Bay (below) and two years after I was hurt another individual broke his back and is a paraplegic. As stated above this condition exists on many of the island beaches in Hawaii, but a law in Hawaii requires warning signage be posted on all beaches where shore break exists. One of the dangerous things about shore break is that it is undetectable by the untrained eye and at times the trained one. There are several beaches in the Virgin Islands where, the condition exists, but no warning signage does. If you are going into the surf make sure you research your beach before you go.

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Cinnamon Bay, St. John, Virgin Islands U.S.

Close up of shore break

Shore break

Signage on beach in Hawaii

Shore break warning sign

Post accident

50th wedding anniversary

Bike trip before accident

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