Josh Basile knew that the beach could be a lot of fun. He loved playing in the waves. What the Potomac teenager didn't know was how best to stay safe in the water. Because of that, he got badly hurt last summer.
As Josh tells it, "A wave took and slammed me against the ocean floor."
Josh was with family and friends at Bethany Beach in Delaware. Six-foot-tall Josh was standing in waist-high water, holding a boogie board and waiting to catch a big wave to ride. But he got caught off-guard and flipped upside down, slamming into the sandy bottom. He broke his neck, which meant he couldn't move his arms or legs.
Josh has a lot of determination, though. In the past 11 months, he has worked hard to regain the use of his arms. He hopes that someday the nerve connections will return in his spine and allow him to walk again.
He doesn't want any other kids to be injured like he was. So he began talking publicly this spring about his accident. In his red-and-black power wheelchair, he visited some Montgomery County schools to warn students about beach dangers and advise them about beach safety.
* Josh's first tip is to always check with the beach lifeguard about surf conditions. The ocean floor can reshape itself day to day, creating hidden sandbars. "Find out where the shallow and deep areas are," Josh says.
* Walk, don't run, into the water, and never dive in headfirst unless you're sure how deep it is (just like at a swimming pool).
* Always face the ocean when you're playing in the waves, Josh says, and don't dive toward the bottom when a wave is coming at you. If you're trying to bodysurf or ride a boogie board, keep your hands out in front of you and cut across the waves, not straight toward the shore.
* Protect your head and neck. If you get pounded by a wave and hit the bottom hard, seek medical help if you feel pain, tingling or weakness in your arms, legs, neck or back.
Josh, who is 19, still loves the beach. But, as he always tells people, "have a safe summer!"
-- Susan Levine