National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Preliminary data on fatalities which occurred in the surf zones across National Weather Service areas of forecast responsibility through July 31, 2020. This data is preliminary and may not be completely accurate. Click on a state with surf zone fatalities in 2020 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












  X       Falcon Cove OR M 4 1/11
  X       Falcon Cove OR F 7 1/11
X         Cayo PR M ? 1/24
X         Black Eagle Beach PR M 61 1/28
X         Fort Pierce State Park FL M 27 2/16
X         Middles Beach PR M 22 3/16
X         Pinones Beach PR M 60 3/16
      X1   North Myrtle Beach SC M 17 4/9
      X   Galveston Beach TX M 29 5/15
X         Perdido Key FL M 43 5/16
        X Carolina Beach NC M 23 5/16
      X1   Crescent Beach FL M 26 5/16
X         Venice Beach CA M 39 5/17
        X Ponce Inlet FL M 62 5/21
X         Rockaway Beach NY M 24 5/22
X         Siesta Key FL F 10 5/24
X         Topsail Beach NC M 29 5/26
X         Dorado PR M 47 5/31
X         Grand Isle LA M 8 6/5
X         Grand Isle LA M 10 6/5
X         Grand Isle LA M 33 6/5
      X:4   Holland State Park MI M 6 6/7
      X:4   Holland State Park MI M 17 6/7
      X:4   J.P. Luby Beach TX M 26 6/10
      X   Jacksonville Beach FL M 10 6/13
X         Myrtle Beach (16th Ave N.) SC M 52 6/19
X         Holly Beach (Garden City) SC M 71 6/19
X         Myrtle Beach (7th Ave. N) SC M 25 6/20
  X       Indiana Dunes National Park IN M 18 6/23
X         Kitty Hawk NC M 26 7/3
X         Atlantic City Beach NJ M 77 7/9
      X   Long Beach NY M 19 7/9
        X Marquette Park Beach IN M 12 7/98
        X Duck NC M 65 7/10
        X Ventnor NJ M 18 7/10
X         Ocracoke NC M 65 7/12
X         Emerald Isle NC M 72 7/12
X         Emerald Isle NC M 73 7/12
        X Cupsogue Beach NY M 31 7/12
X         Westhampton Beach NY M 57 7/12
X         Scarborough State Beach RI M 64 7/12
  X       South Haven MI M ? 7/12
  X       Promontory Point (near Burnham Park) FL M 25 7/14
X         T.H. Stone Mem. St. Jos. Penin. State Park FL M 14 7/15
  X       Promontory Point (near Burnham Park) IL M 25 7/17
  X       McKinley Beach WI M 19 7/18
      X:1   Grand Haven State Park MI M 14 7/19
X         Fort Walton Beach FL M 33 7/22
X         St. George's Island FL M 40 7/29
        X Providence RI M 56 7/29
      X:4   Lion's Park Beach, St. Joseph MI M 44 7/30
      X:4   New Buffalo City Beach MI M 24 7/30
        X Warren Dunes State Park MI F 13 7/30
27 6 0 11 8         Total: 52

1: longshore current, 2: tidal current, 3: outlet current, 4: structural current, 5: shore break, 6: strong current, 7: channel current, 8: inlet current
*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.