Beware of umbrella attacks at the beach

Another summer vacation at your favorite beach. Sand, surf, and sun. Family, friends, and fun. Sunscreen, a first-aid kit for the kids, and flip-flops to protect feet from the scorching sand. You’ve got burns and bruises covered. No toasted tourists on your watch.

Just imagine. You are dripping with coconut oil, relaxing on a blanket, and daydreaming about Alaskan crag legs while basking on the beach. Ocean waves are lolling you to sleep. Whoosh! Something smacks, slaps, or stabs your greasy body. No, they aren’t apocalyptic zombie umbrellas. Apparently, beach umbrellas can take flight in rogue wind gusts.

Sunbathers beware. Depending on the beach destination, you can see hundreds of beach umbrellas lining the shore. And the more popular the beach, the more people, and the more umbrellas. However rare, freak accidents do happen.

According to a 2018 article in the New York Post, a woman on vacation in Ocean City, Maryland was injured when a wind-blown rental umbrella “gored her in the upper chest.”

According to a 2018 CNN report, heavy winds uprooted several beach umbrellas along the Jersey Shore. Wham! A tourist’s ankle was impaled by an umbrellas’ aluminum stake.

In 2016, a 55-year-old woman died after being hit by a fly-away beach umbrella at Virginia Beach.

A 2016 article in the Journal of Forensic Science, reported on two cases of skull encephalic injuries caused by violent impacts with beach umbrellas. Both the adult and the child died.

Beach Umbrella Lawsuits

According to several articles on the Internet, negligence to secure a beach umbrella that causes injury or death to a person can lead to a lawsuit.

A woman, injured from a windblown beach umbrella, was awarded $200,000, according to an article in the New York Times.

I would venture a guess that new regulations for hotels that rent umbrellas is in the works as well as warnings on over-sized umbrellas from manufacturers.

Beach Umbrella Safety

TODAY Show reporter Jeff Rossen demonstrated the best way to secure a beach umbrella. And a segment on the Weather Channel concurred.

One: Bury the umbrella stake at least 1/3 down into the sand.

Two: Make sure the umbrella is tilted in the direction of the wind to prevent gusts from picking it up and propelling it. Be aware of wind direction throughout the day and tilt as needed.

Three: Try a sand anchor.

An unfortunate beachgoer was permanently injured when an umbrella penetrated his left eye. He created a Beach Umbrella Safety website and displays different anchors, safer umbrellas, and tips. “Saving lives and preventing life altering injuries caused by beach umbrellas propelled by the wind is the sole mission of Beach Umbrella Safety and will be realized through education of the public.”

I am stunned. Of the times I’ve visited beaches; never did I consider the potential hazards of an unsecured beach umbrella. Who knew? Be aware of umbrella attacks at the beach. “Know before you go” is my new tourist motto.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. Contact her at