How to keep your beach umbrella from flying away
Expert tips to keep your shade secure on a windy day
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It’s fine for seagulls and colorful kites to take flight at the shore, but your beach umbrella—an essential for any successful beach trip—shouldn’t join in the fun.
Far worse than being embarrassed for having to run after it, an errant beach umbrella can turn into a lethal weapon if it picks up enough wind. From 2010 to 2018, roughly 2,800 people were taken to the ER to be treated for a beach umbrella-related injury. Beachgoers can be impaled or otherwise hurt by flyway umbrella shafts.
We spoke to Joe Bongiovanni, the beach safety supervisor for the city of Asbury Park, New Jersey, to find out how to secure a beach umbrella in the sand so your seaside outings remain safe and fun.
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Don’t skimp on quality
You might be tempted to head to the dollar store or your local supermarket to snap up a beach umbrella on sale, but you’ll definitely get what you pay for, says Bongiovanni. While those cheaper umbrellas do provide some shade, they’ve got thinner shafts that won’t dig into the sand well enough to stay secure, and some may even break.
In addition to looking for an umbrella with a sturdier shaft and fabric that offers some UV protection, Bongiovanni says, “It should also have a vent in the top so that when that gust of wind comes up, it’s a place for the air to escape without pulling the umbrella out of the ground and flying through the air.”
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Plant the beach umbrella deep in the sand
When you arrive at the beach and set up your spot on the sand, don’t stab at the sand or attempt to twist or screw the umbrella into the ground. Instead, rock the umbrella back and forth as it works its way further into the sand, Bongiovanni explains. Tilt the umbrella so that it’s going into the wind, not away from it.
A good beach umbrella will have a shaft sturdy enough to dig in at least a foot into the sand, though Bongiovanni says a 18-inch depth is even better. The CSPS recommends two feet, so this should give you an idea of how tall a good beach umbrella shaft should be for it to remain safely in the sand.
Secure your beach umbrella with an anchor
Anchors aren’t just for securing boats in the harbor. They’re also for keeping your beach umbrella stuck in the sand until you’re ready to pack it up for the day. It’s easy enough to find beach umbrella anchors online, says Bongiovanni, but make sure to purchase ones that have wide screws. Look for ones that have a good deal of threads on the screw, which will make it easier to twist the anchor deeper into the sand.
For reassurance that your beach umbrella won’t take flight like those parasailing off in the distance, Bongiovanni recommends adding weights. There are bags you can purchase and fill with either sand or water, then attach them either to the umbrella spokes or to the shaft itself to keep it in place.
Your umbrella should have sturdy enough spokes that can withstand weights being attached to it. “Again, that’s where a good umbrella comes in,” Bongiovanni says, noting that with some cheaper models, the spokes are prone to breaking.
Watch for changes in the wind’s direction
Windy days can spell disaster for unsecured beach umbrellas. You might have tilted the umbrella the right way when you first arrived at the beach, but Bongiovanni warns beach goers to pay attention to when the wind changes direction. The vent in the top of your umbrella should help somewhat, but if you find the wind is coming up under the umbrella rather than on top of it, it’s time to adjust it and anchor it once more.
Don’t leave your umbrella unattended
No matter how well anchored your beach umbrella is, Bongiovanni says you shouldn’t leave it unattended, whether you leave briefly for lunch or for a dip in the waves.
If you’re with others, take turns so that someone is always monitoring the umbrella; if you’re alone and have to leave, then take it down for the time being. The extra bit of work it takes to secure and resecure your beach umbrella is worth it to avoid a potentially fatal injury.
“People need to understand that if your personal umbrella flies away, and it hits somebody, you are personally liable for any injuries that thing causes,” Bongiovanni says.
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