Using beach umbrella anchors is only one step of the process if you want to be safe.
Going to the beach should be an enjoyable experience, and if you're seeking out shade under a beach umbrella, you're probably hoping to kick back and relax in peace. Unfortunately, if you or people around you don't stick beach umbrellas into the sand correctly, there can be dire consequences.
Earlier this week, a beachgoer in Ocean City, Maryland, was struck by a windswept beach umbrella. The 46-year-old mother was impaled in the chest, but is thankfully recovering after surgery, CBS Baltimore reports. The TODAY Show points out this isn't the first time beach umbrellas have turned so dangerous.
The incident has sparked a lot of talk on how beach umbrellas can be secured correctly so injuries like this aren't a common hazard of going to the beach. We spoke to Butch Arbin, captain of the Ocean City Beach Patrol in Ocean City, about the best practices for anchoring beach umbrellas and setting them up securely and found out that while beach umbrella anchors can be useful, they're not the catch-all of safety.
According to Arbin, beach umbrella anchors don't work as well in loose sand, like at the beaches in Ocean City and Long Island, New York. Also, certain kinds tend to be more reliable than others. He highlights beach umbrella anchors that look like giant screws as effective ($20; amazon.com), but only when they're firmly in the ground and coupled with other best practices.
The main reason beach umbrellas get loose, says Arbin, isn't that they're not anchored but that people don't put them in correctly to begin with.
The first step starts before you even get to the beach. Make sure the umbrella you're using is the right kind and high-quality–you can't just use any umbrella, like one from your patio. Beach umbrellas are best when they're heavy, and the pole should be at least 1 to 1¹/₂ inches thick with a pronounced spike at the end.
To set it up properly: First open the umbrella, then grip the top with both hands, spike the pole into the sand, and forcefully rock the stake back and forth.
With each motion, the umbrella will get deeper into the sand, and you want the stake 18 to 24 inches in the ground for maximum staying power. Then, position the umbrella so the canopy is facing against the direction of the wind. "If they don't do that ... it's like Marry Poppins when she used to fly with her umbrella," Arbin adds.
Remaining diligent about the process of getting your beach umbrella into the sand is crucial because, as Arbin stresses, the right beach umbrella anchor can only make a difference if you've put the umbrella in the sand properly.