So, you've sunk down in your 4WD on the beach, and don't know what to do next. Firstly, relax; although its a pretty uncomfortable position to be in, you can get yourself out without damaging anything but your pride!
How do you get moving again?
I'll run through a number of steps that you need to complete, before being on your way again:
Stop spinning your wheels!
The biggest mistake you can make when you stop moving on a beach is to keep spinning the wheels. You will see that if your 4WD stops moving forwards, it begins to sink! The more you continue to drive, the further you sink, and the harder its going to be to get moving again. The best practice is to stop spinning the wheels the moment you lose momentum. Do this, and your 4WD recovery will be simple and easy.
If you are not moving forward, don't keep spinning your wheels; you are only making it worse.
Check you are in 4WD, with the front hubs locked
You wouldn't believe how many people drive onto a beach without putting their vehicle in 4WD. For older vehicles, there's a second gear stick that needs to be moved into high range (H) or Low range (L). Newer vehicles generally just have push buttons, or a different gear stick arrangement. Also, check your front hubs are locked; this is what transfers drive to the wheels. For older vehicles, you will have to get out of the vehicle and turn the hub to the 4X4 position on both sides. Modern vehicles have auto locking hubs.
Your hubs are located in the middle of your front wheels.
Let your tyres down further
Tyre pressures make all the difference when it comes to beach driving. A couple of PSI will completely change the way your vehicle floats on the sand. How much have you let your tyres down? If the answer is anything above 15 PSI, you need to let more air out of your tyres. If you are badly bogged, you can let them down progressively all the way to about 8 PSI. Anything below 10 PSI and you are at risk of rolling a tyre off the bead if you turn quickly when moving, but to get a bogged 4WD going again you can go all the way to 5 PSI (only if you absolutely must!).
If you go from 16 PSI down to 10 PSI, you've lost 40% of the air in your tyres, which gives you a much greater surface area and thus a whole lot of extra floatation. Don't believe this makes much of a difference? Try it; you will be blown away. If you are regularly 4WDing, get yourself a good quality Tyre deflator; you won't look back.
Dig some sand away
Yep, now for a bit of work. You should always carry a full length shovel with you. What ever you have, dig with it, around all 4 tyres in the direction you want to move again. If you are bottomed out on the chassis, you have a lot of work to do. The idea is to get the vehicle's weight back onto its wheels. The more you dig away, the easier it is to get moving again, so take your time.
If you are on a slope, steer towards the water
The biggest mistake people make when they get bogged on a beach with the sand sloping towards the water is they try and take off away from the water. It's human nature I suppose, you want to keep your 4WD away from the nasty salt. The thing is though, you will almost never be able to get moving again up a slope; you need to steer down to get a bit of momentum first.
I'm not suggesting you drive directly towards the water, just make sure you aren't heading uphill at all, or you risk getting bogged even worse. If your vehicle is crab walking, there's a good chance you need to steer further down hill, or let your tyres down more.
Rock forward and backwards
A good test to see how you are fairing after doing the above steps is to take off forward half a metre, and go backwards half a metre. Keep doing this until the vehicle moves easily back and forward. You now have a harder section to take off from, and have the best chance of getting out of your predicament.
Take off, slightly downhill
Now for the final step; when you are ready, take off with the vehicle driving slightly downhill. Wait until you have built up some momentum (at least 3rd gear in low range, or high revs in 1st gear high range) and then you are ready to attempt driving back up to the top of the beach. Hold the revs, and if you start to lose momentum, be aware you can get it back easily by driving back towards the water slightly.
Avoid any wheel spin, and if you begin to sink again, stop immediately and re-assess.
It can be stressful getting bogged on a beach, especially if you have others in your care. I was driving from Lancelin to Wedge Island some time ago in our 80 series, with the tyres down at 15 PSI, and took a line a little too close to the water to get around two other bogged vehicles. Our big 80 started to go down more than it was going forwards about a metre away from the waves that were rolling in. It's not a very pleasant feeling at all, but you need to get past that and do something about it. I decided to stop driving, rather than sink badly and let the tyres down.
I jumped out, and let 3 tyres down to 10 PSI. The last tyre (rear left) was so badly buried I couldn't even get to the tyre valve. I got back in, gave it a few berries towards the water (and we were very close!) until I grabbed 3rd gear in low range, and then comfortably cruised back to the top of the beach. It's counter intuitive to drive towards the water, but you don't have a choice!
If you have a second vehicle
If you are travelling with a second vehicle (which is ideal), you can use a Snatch strap or winch to get you moving again. Obviously, it pays to do some of the steps above; ensure 4WD is engaged, let your tyres down and dig some sand away.
Using Maxtrax or Treds
The easiest, safest and quickest way to recover yourself on a beach is to use a set of traction boards. I haven't used Tred's, but would recommend Maxtrax in a heartbeat. Dig a bit away, wedge them under your wheels and drive out; its that simple.
Have you been badly stuck?
Let me know below; what's the worst you've been stuck on a beach? How did you get out?