Tourists in Iceland standing too close to the ocean almost got swept away by dangerous 'sneaker waves'

  • A viral TikTok video shows tourists in Europe who were almost swept away by sneaker waves.

  • The fast-moving water is common at Reynisfjara, a famous black-sand beach in Iceland.

  • At least five people have died at the landmark as a result of the waves in the past decade.

A group of tourists have learned the hard way why you shouldn't always get too close to the ocean.

On Wednesday, TikTok user @KelseyStarlight posted a video that shows a group of tourists approaching the waves at Reynisfjara, a black-sand beach near the Vík í Mýrdal village in southern Iceland that's known for its "sneaker waves," or quick-moving, far-reaching water.

In the TikTok clip, two travelers seen posing for a photo are forced to make a run for it as the nearby water quickly begins to move. One tourist trips while trying to escape and the other is seen falling as the water catches up to them.

Though the tourists seemingly left unscathed, albeit wet, the TikToker who caught the moment on camera is now using the footage as a cautionary tale to others.

"This is what happens when you're a cocky tourist and don't listen the rules 😂 whyyyy are people like this?!" the TikToker wrote.

TikToker @KelseyStarlight did not respond to a request for comment.

Reynisfjara is extremely popular with tourists who travel from across the world to see its massive basalt columns and dark sand.

According to travel company Reykjavík Excursions, the landmark originally formed when the Katla volcano erupted, and the mixture of hot lava and cold ocean water formed black rock.

After years of erosion, there are now miles of black sand and towering columns that would take more than an hour and a half to view while walking, according to the company's website.

A view of the black-sand beach in Iceland.
A view of the black-sand beach in Iceland.Elisa Vendramin/Getty Images

The tourists seen in the TikTok video, which has been viewed more than 3.7 million times as of Thursday, were extremely lucky.

Sneaker waves might look like any other wave at first. But they surge farther up the beach and are more unpredictable, which makes them deadly, according to the National Weather Service.

Getting caught in them can result in being swept far from shore and cold-water immersion. They're also so strong that they can lift heavy, soaked beach logs — another danger for beachgoers who might be in their paths, according to the NWS.

That's why the NWS recommends that those visiting places that experience sneaker waves watch the ocean for at least 20 minutes to get a sense of its movement. And from there, it says, you should remain "farther back from the ocean than you think is necessary."

Tourists visit Reynisfjara in Iceland on January 24, 2023.
Tourists visit Reynisfjara in Iceland on January 24, 2023.Manuel Romano/Getty Images

At Reynisfjara alone, sneaker waves have led to five deaths and a dozen emergency calls in the past decade, Reykjavík Excursions says on its website.

In a previous interview with Business Insider, Icelandic tour guide and search-and-rescue worker Davíð Geir Jónasson said those incidents are often the result of travelers ignoring warning signs at popular sites like Reynisfjara.

"People need to realize that this raw beauty in Iceland is also created by this elemental power," Jónasson said. "We have violent storms, volcanoes, glaciers, and we treat them with respect, in a careful way. In Iceland, a warning sign is put up because someone has died or multiple people have died. It's not just because something might happen."

Read the original article on Insider