In the era of social media, our smallest mistakes (or, in this case one of our larger ones) can become public fodder.
Later Tuesday, video began circulating showing a Land Rover LR4 stuck at the surf line at Island Beach State Park. As waves hit the SUV, one of the most capable off-road vehicles on the market, the owner desperately tries to free his truck from the wet sand with a shovel.
Reports from various social media sites indicate that, luckily, a tow truck came in time and the vehicle drove on its own power out of the park. But courtesy of Shorebeat, (and the New Jersey Beach Buggy Association’s tips which this reporter has accumulated over the years), here are some tips that could help avoid any of us getting into the same precarious situation:
- Air Down Your Tires: This is rule number one for driving on the sand. The exact PSI number is often in dispute – some push the limits and some are extra cautious – but we’ve always found 15psi has never let us down. You can often use the rounded tip on the back of a tire pressure gauge to help do the work for you, pushing in the pin to let the air out. Or, you can buy deflators online.
- Don’t Drive too Close to the Water: If there’s a fine line in this art of beach driving, it’s just how close to the water you can get. Some drivers prefer to drive a little closer to the water because the sand there is often dry-packed during low tide. The risk in this, of course, is that the tide will inevitably rise again, so if you get stuck, you better have a plan to get outta dodge quickly. The cardinal rule here, of course, is to avoid driving on wet sand. We know, there are tons of videos online of people doing it, but then there’s also the video attached to this story. If a Land Rover LR4, which comes with low gear, lockers, and what is arguably the most advanced off-road traction computer system on Earth, can get stuck, anyone can.
- Have a Way to Escape: At the very least, take a piece of wood with you that can be shoved under your tires for traction if you get stuck. Better yet, invest in what has been called the world’s best escape system: MaxTrax. These clever traction surfaces were developed in Australia for use on the coastline, and have garnered rave reviews.
- Alter Your Driving Style: Your SUV isn’t a sports car anyway, so don’t drive it like one. Quick cornering in sand is a big no-no. If you’ve ever driven a boat, think of your truck in the same manner: long, wide turns are the safest. When you brake, don’t slam on them. Most likely, the friction generated by the sand will all but stop your car. A featherweight tap on the brake will be enough to finish the job, and it will ensure your tires don’t create a mound of sand in front of them you’ll have to drive over later. Better yet, put ‘er in reverse for a foot or two so you’ll have an ultra-smooth surface from which to drive away.
- Learn From the Pros: The New Jersey Beach Buggy Association is a great group of folks who hold periodic beach driving clinics. They’ll get you safely on the sand and go over many of the basics with you. Here’s some information on the group.