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Preliminary data on fatalities which occurred in the surf zones across National Weather Service areas of forecast responsibility through March 31, 2021. This data is preliminary and may not be completely accurate. Click on a state with surf zone fatalities in 2021 for a more detailed view.

U.s. Surf Zone deaths in 2020

rip current fatality Rip Currents
high surf fatality High Surf
sneaker wave fatality location Sneaker Waves
other, longshore wave Other
other surf death

Unknown

Rip
Current

High
Surf

Sneaker
Wave

Other
(see Key)

Not
Known

Location

ST

M/F

Age

Date

  X       Mendocino CA M 45 1/2
  X       Blind Beach CA M 40 1/3
  X       Blind Beach CA M 4 1/3
  X       Blind Beach CA F 7 1/3
  X       Cowell Ranch State Beach CA M 12 1/18
X         Ft. Pickens FL M 71 3/27
X         Miramar Beach FL M 42 3/28
X         Johnson Beach FL M 62 3/28
  X       Silver Beach MI M 27 3/28
X         Miami Beach FL M 42 3/31
X         Miami Beach FL M 49 3/31
5 6 0 0 0         Total: 11

Key: 1: longshore current, 2: tidal current, 3: outlet current, 4: structural current, 5: shore break, 6: strong current, 7: channel current, 8: inlet current, 9: sandbar
*American Samoa, ? : unknown

Accurately tracking these types of fatalities is difficult because so many go unreported and undocumented. Due to the difficult nature of tracking surf zone fatalities; these data may not match other sources.

  • Surf Zone: area of water between the high tide level on the beach and the seaward side of the breaking waves. The NWS officially categorizes surf zone fatalities caused by three types of hazards; Rip Current, High Surf and Sneaker Wave (see definitions below).
  • Rip Current: A relatively small-scale surf-zone current moving away from the beach. Rip currents form as waves disperse along the beach causing water to become trapped between the beach and a sandbar or other underwater feature. The water converges into a narrow, river-like channel moving away from the shore at high speed.
  • High Surf: Large waves breaking on or near the shore resulting from swells spawned by a distant storm.
  • Sneaker Wave: Large wave that suddenly swamps a beach/coast and takes people by surprise sweeping them into the water.

Occasionally, there are surf zone fatalities caused by other hazards such as unusual waves and currents. These hazards fall in the “Other” category. “Other” is not an official category defined by the NWS. Rip Currents cause a large of percentage of the surf zone fatalities in the United States. Typically, a victim of a surf zone hazard is a male between the ages of 10-29. Most of the fatalities occur during the months of June and July and in the NWS Southern Region.

NWS started tracking these statistics in 2013. We do not have breakdowns before 2013.