Why so sticky at the beach?

A couple days ago, we spent a day at the beach. It rained heavily when we first arrived, but we were getting wet anyway so we went out in it and had fun. Later, we both put on a sunscreen that’s a dry-to-the-touch spray. I’ve used that same can of sunscreen before, about a month ago, without problems. We both swam in the ocean. There was no seaweed. No jellies. Nothing unusual about the water that we could tell. But after toweling off and air drying in the wind, we went for a walk down a very long jetty to watch the fishermen. We were both miserably sticky by then. Neither of us could wipe it off, whatever it was. I tried rubbing it on my shorts, on the gritty concrete, and even rubbing my hands together hard didn’t fix it. There was nothing that we could see on our skin, but the feeling was annoying. We could almost stick our fingers together! When we got back to the car, we used a bottle of water to rinse our hands and without soap, this helped more than I thought it would. But we were still sticky until we could shower that night.

What made our skin so sticky?
Something in the rain?
Something in the ocean?
Evaporated sea spray?

Today, I saw on the local news that the following day, a Pygmy sperm whale washed up on the very beach where we were. It was ill and had to be euthanized. Could it have been secreting something in the water it was swimming in? Worse, I wonder if whatever was in the water that made us sticky made the whale ill? I tried searching for any mention of it online and can’t find anything. We go to this beach very often and have never experienced this.


This might be a dumb question, but you have swam in the ocean before, right? Salt water always leaves me somewhat sticky, so I want to be sure you’re indicating a stickiness beyond what’s normal.

The hubs and I just spent the last week covered in spray on sunblock with no issues. We didn’t spend much time in the seawater because the beach was weedy, but were in the pool almost all day. No sticky. I’ve used several brands and don’t believe that was the problem. Just MHO.
Given the opportunity I would blame everything I possibly could on a pygmy sperm whale!

This matches my experience. After swimming in salt water I always rinse off. Showers, water guns, and garden hoses work equally well.

Yes saltwater makes you sticky, but this was like adhesive sticky! Like we’d been handling duct tape for a few hours or something. It was beyond normal.

Where were you? I had a similar occurrence in Alabama last week. It only happened one day, which was actually after a rain…gross, nasty feeling. Made me dread getting in the water the next day but it never happened again.

Occurred to me that it was oily junk from the BP spill that the waves had churned up.

It is summer there. There was a full moon… I remember seeing it just last week…
Ideal time for procreation…

Procreation…gross thought, but one that has occurred to me.

We were at Surfside Beach, south of Galveston, TX. Luckily there was very little local impact from the BP incident. But it’s right by the Brazos River which carries water out of the areas that were heavily flooded just last month.

I was reading about Pygmy Sperm Whales last night. They have a large organ in their head full of an oily wax substance. I wonder if it was secreted into the water? Yuck!

Well, they were saying on the news that the fecal bacteria counts were very high in the Gulf after the recent flooding, so maybe that has something to do with it.


Doubt it. The organ is for echo location - the contents might be released from a decaying whale carcass, but you say this whale was washed up alive.

Yes I saw that warning on the local news. But Galveston, East Beach and Bolivar side, is pretty far north of where we go.

That’s what the articles stated.
Update: We were there yesterday, hung out in the water for quite a while, and were there for about 6 hours and it was back to normal this time. So I guess it will remain a mystery.

Did you use that same dry sunscreen yesterday too? If not, that may have been your culprit. Can you share the specific name with us?

Galveston is the cesspool of the Gulf. For whatever reason, all of the crap that occurs in the Gulf, somehow funnels itself to the Galveston area.

Yeah, jokes about fecal bacteria aside, I’d guess it was the sunscreen. I’ve swam in Galveston Bay and Gulf water for decades and never come out sticky before, other than the usual tar-balls on the feet (from the natural oil seeps out in the Gulf).

I suppose at Surfside, it could be something funky from Dow Chemical in Freeport in the water.

Still on the same can even.
Banana Boat Sun Comfort

If you mean the BP spill, that didn’t really flow this direction. Yours is an opinion I’ve heard from many people before. Some of them now own beach houses here. Any beach that’s an hour from me that I can go to daily if I want, beats having to travel 8-12 hours for a “better” one, or only going once a year. Yes, I wish I had the Maldives in my backyard, but the central TX coast will do just fine for my fun.