Anglers: Why You Should Be Wary of “Sneaker Waves”

   01.26.16

Whether you call them sneakers, sleepers, kings, or rogue waves, these large and unpredictable movements of water can be very dangerous for the unwary angler. Depending on who you ask, many fishermen may have never even heard of a sneaker wave, or claim they are so rare that they may as well be a myth.

They are certainly rare enough that when caught on camera, they make the news.

Steve Raplee, who owns the High Tide Cafe in Charleston, Oregon, was filming the waves from his restaurant recently when he realized a sneaker wave was headed straight for him. Raplee and the other people in the area managed to flee for safety, but the video he took captured how quickly a sneaker wave could move in. These unpredictable waves can knock you back a few few feet, or it can drag you out to open water.

You can see that video below:

What exactly is a sneaker wave? Sneaker waves can be thought of as one type of rogue wave, but occurring near the coast and without warning. They are often produced through the interaction of waves hitting each other, causing a disproportionately large wave to suddenly surge up the beach. Not surprisingly, this can prove to be a very real hazard to anglers fishing near beaches, on coastal rocks, or in small boats. Larger sneaker waves can occasionally even capsize vessels.

“When you get into the beach, especially when you get into complicated areas like the rocks, you can get feedback—the previous wave changes the condition for the next wave,” oceanographer Robert Holman told The Oregonian. “If you had a previous wave that washed down at just the right time, that would reinforce the next wave. That can produce things that truly are dangerous and not expected.”

The solution? Expect the unexpected, and that means safety precautions like wearing a flotation device on a boat even while being close to shore. It also brings to mind the old saying of how you should never turn your back to the ocean, or close your eyes to it either.

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