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 March 17, 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.

map showing surf zone fatalities in 2020. See list below for equivalent information.

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

Unknown

 

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Rip
Current

High
Surf

Sneaker
Wave

Other

Not
Known

Location

ST

M/F

Age

Date

  X       Falcon Cove OR M 4 1/11
  X       Falcon Cove OR F 7 1/11
X         Cayo PR M unk 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 PF M 60 3/16
5 2 0 0 0         Total: 7

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.