Warning: It's far more dangerous to hunt for sea glass at Davenport than it is in most places. It's not a place to bring children to hunt. It's important to understand the dangers associated with tides and swells on the California coast. People lose their lives each year underestimating them. You shouldn't try hunting unless you're an advanced ocean swimmer, you're in good shape, you're highly mobile even in sand and understand how to escape a rip current.
A question I often get asked is, "Is it dangerous to hunt for sea glass at Davenport?" The simple answer is "Yes!" While there are areas on the beach where hunters can search that are less dangerous than others, it's quite possible to get seriously injured even in these "safer" areas.
Hunting for sea glass at Davenport is sometimes described as "extreme sea glassing" due to the dangers that come with collecting from this beach. The fact is, there are a lot more risks to gathering sea glass at Davenport than at most beaches. Understanding these different dangers is important so you can mitigate each as much as possible. The number one rule to remember is no piece of sea glass, no matter how beautiful, is worth serious injury or death. Below are some of the risks you may encounter at Davenport.
Pounding Gravel and Rocks
The best pieces are often found in the gravel which tends to settle at the surf-line. Since waves at Davenport can get quite large and strong, the gravel and rocks get whipped around by the surf. For those who brave it, it's likely that you will come away with a minimum of a lot of scrapes and bruises on your ankles and shins from the gravel, and it simply takes one large rock to cause even more damage. It's important to constantly keep an eye out for the larger stones being whipped around so you don't end up with a broken ankle. Anyone who hunts at Davenport on a regular basis has scars on their legs from the gravel. In fact, more and more hunters are wearing shin guards to help lessen the amount of injury caused by the churning gravel and rocks.
It only has to happen once for you to realize the danger of flying rocks at Davenport. The waves often hit the rock outcroppings with enough force to send water over them and into the pit area where hunters often look for sea glass. The problem is that it's not only water that gets sprayed high into the air. The ocean water is often peppered with gravel and small rocks that end up raining down on anyone who happens to get caught off-guard. See the photo at the top of this article with a wave crashing over the rock outcroppings? In the mass of white water are thousands of pieces of gravel. Think about 100 people throwing small rocks at you with force and you get the idea of how dangerous it can be.
The force of the waves at Davenport is strong, so it's important to always keep an eye on them, especially if you aren't able to escape. The problem is that keeping your eye on the wave isn't as easy as it might seem. In fact, the wave coming directly at you often isn't the most dangerous wave at Davenport.
When the waves hit the rock outcroppings, there is nowhere for the wave to continue. The result is that it bounces off the rock outcropping and you get a cross wave that can be more powerful than the actual wave that first hit. Worse, if you aren't aware of these cross waves, they will hit you from behind so you have no way to brace yourself for them. It's the cross waves that will tumble an entire group of hunters as if they were in a washing machine.
Sneaker waves are waves that are much larger than the previous waves in a set, and there is no rhyme or reason as to when they happen. Not only are they much bigger and powerful than normal, they are the ones that most often create flying rocks and large cross waves. When you hear about people getting seriously hurt at Davenport, there's a good chance that a sneaker wave was part of the equation. Davenport seems to have more than its fair share of these sneaker waves
Davenport has rip currents and these are amplified when the beach has strong tides from storms. Not only can the waves knock you off your feet, but once in the wave, you can get sucked out into the ocean pretty easily. I consider myself a strong swimmer (I was a lifeguard all through high school and college) and I've been caught in the rip current a few times. If you aren't familiar with rip currents and how to escape them, you really shouldn't be looking for sea glass at Davenport.
Especially after storms, floating debris in the ocean can become a real hazard. The storms swell the river that drains onto Davenport Beach, bringing down tree trunks and branches. As the storm surge brings this debris onto the beach, it can cut, bruise and even break bones. Seaweed, when present, can tangle your legs and trip you, making it difficult to get up and increase the likelihood that you get taken out in a rip current. The dangers increase dramatically when there is debris in the ocean at Davenport.
Falling Debris from the Cliffs
If you search for sea glass in certain areas along the beach, you need to be aware of falling debris from the cliffs. This is especially true if you decide to hunt north of the river where 100-foot high cliff walls overlook the beach. The cliffs are made of sandstone and are not all that stable. There are rock slides on a fairly frequent basis, and if you happen to be on the beach when one happens, you can get seriously injured. It's important to be aware that while you're looking down for sea glass, there may be danger falling down from above.
False Sense of Security
One of the biggest dangers at Davenport is that it has a way of lulling people into a false sense of security. There have been more than a few occasions when people new to the beach started searching for sea glass at the high tide line, only to get bolder throughout the day to the point where they would wander into the pit area. The thing is, it only takes a single wave to cause a whole lot of damage, and strong waves can appear even when everything appears to be calm. This is how a lot of people get hurt.
You have been warned. There are a lot of risks that go along with hunting at Davenport. If you decide to risk the dangers to search for sea glass, it's important to understand that there is unseen danger coming directly at you with every wave that crashes on the beach.