Kitesurfers barbed by stingrays at Lake Weyba prompt calls for warning signage – ABC News

Kitesurfers struggling with the lasting effects of being barbed by stingrays are calling for warning signs to be installed at one of south-east Queensland’s largest lakes.

Andrew Prentice and Tina McGiffin also want to see improved training for medics treating stingray injuries and an education campaign about the “stingray shuffle”.

Both Mr Prentice and Ms McGiffin have ongoing issues with their feet and legs after being barbed in Lake Weyba, just south of Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.

A smiling older man on a beach with a little girl.

Andrew Prentice, pictured with his granddaughter Oona.(Supplied: Andrew Prentice)

The name of the 983-hectare lake is derived from the Gubbi Gubbi word for stingray, but many visitors are unaware it is a breeding ground for the creatures, whose numbers could run into the thousands.

“I was in hospital for six weeks, had nine operations and was extremely lucky not to lose my foot,” said Mr Prentice, who was barbed in February 2023.

“I still take approximately 20 painkillers per day due to severe nerve pain in my foot, and the sole of my foot is completely numb.”

Paramedics and membersof the public surround a stricken woman on the shore of a lake.

Tina McGiffin is attended to by ambulance officers on the shores of Lake Weyba.(Supplied: Tina McGiffin)

‘100 times worse than childbirth’

Ms McGiffin was barbed 11 months before Mr Prentice and has lost sensation in her foot and has a hole through her Achilles tendon.

The possibility of amputation was discussed with hospital staff.

“The pain was at least 100 times worse than childbirth — I can’t describe it,” Ms McGiffin said.

“People carried me to the shore.

“I kept passing out with the pain.

“After an hour the ambulance arrived and they gave me the green whistle and I said, ‘That’s made no difference at all’.

“Then they gave me a morphine shot, then two more morphine shots at 10-minute intervals.

“The pain was so extreme, it just continued.”

The similarities in their cases have led to Ms McGiffin and Mr Prentice to work together to try and ensure others are spared their experience.

A tree on the shore of a lake.

There are no warning signs at Lake Weyba, which could potentially be home to thousands of stingrays.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Annie Gaffney)

They believe had they been aware of the “stingray shuffle” – the practice of dragging the feet along the bottom of the lake rather than taking steps – they could have completely avoided being barbed.

Stingrays will commonly take all measures to avoid confrontation and shuffling allows them enough warning to relocate.

Ms McGiffin and Mr Prentice also maintain medical staff stitched them up earlier than necessary in hospital, which trapped venom underneath their skin and led to prolonged impacts.

Push for signs and awareness

They say that if better first aid knowledge about stingray barbs existed, members of the public and medical professionals could respond more effectively.

“I also think any body of water with large concentrations of stingrays should have signs warning the public,” Mr Prentice said.

“Children worry me in particular, because if you go to Lake Weyba on a sunny day, they are running right through the shallows, just where I got hit.

“I believe we need good, clear warning signs about avoiding running there and promoting the stingray shuffle.

“Stingrays are lovely creatures that are not out there to sting you on purpose, and it’s our responsibility to create awareness about how to avoid these situations.”

Stingrays resting on the bottom of the ocean

Stingrays will commonly avoid confrontation and dart away from humans if disturbed in advance.(Supplied: Andrew Chin)

Mr Prentice said the signs could be similar to those warning of jellyfish and crocodiles elsewhere in Queensland.

The entirety of Lake Weyba sits within Noosa Shire Council boundaries, but parts of the southern and western shoreline share a border with the Sunshine Coast Council.

Mr Prentice was particularly critical of Noosa council, which he said had not responded on the topic.

Noosa Shire Council did not respond within 48 hours of being contacted by the ABC.

Upon hearing of the barbing incidents at Lake Weyba, members of the public also reported several close calls with stingrays at Lake Cootharaba, a 3,835ha lake north of Noosa.

Get our local newsletter, delivered free each Wednesday

Posted , updated 

Scroll to Top