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 September 10, 2019. This data is preliminary and may not be completely accurate. Click on a state with surf zone fatalities in 2019 for a more detailed view.

map showing rip current fatalities in 2019. 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

 

Rip
Current

High
Surf

Sneaker
Wave

Other

Not
Known

Location

ST

M/F

Age

Date

X         Bird Island, Saipan NM M 22 1/1
  X       Ocean Beach San Diego CA M mid 50s 1/9
X         Tumon Beach GU M 58 1/25
    X     Luffenholtz Beach CA M 39 3/22
X         Rockaway Beach CA M 28 3/26
X         Indialantic FL M 60 3/31
X         Bathtub Reef Beach FL M 14 4/7
  X       Tomales Bay CA M 29 4/9
X         Whitecap Beach TX M 18 4/11
  X       Jupiter FL F 20 4/12
X         Daytona FL F ? 4/17
  X       Emerald Isle NC M 18 4/19
  X       Panama City Beach FL M 19 4/19
X         Emerald Isle NC F 17 4/24
X         Emerald Isle NC F 17 5/4
X         Panama City Beach
FL M 19 5/7
X         New Smyrma Beach FL M 69 5/8
X         Atlantic Beach NC M 5 5/14
X         Atlantic Beach NC M 24 5/14
          Destin FL M 65 5/20
X         Emerald Isle NC M 48 5/21
X         Mustang Island TX M 75 5/24
      X   Destin FL M ? 5/24
      X:2   San Luis Pass TX M 29 5/26
X         Surfside Beach TX M 17 5/26
X         Matagorda Beach TX M 16 5/26
X         Pine Knoll Shores NC M 38 5/26
X         Gulf Shores Public Beach AL M 29 5/27
X         Madeira Beach FL M 71 6/8
X         Monastery Beach CA M ? 6/9
        X Buxton NC M 53 6/10
        X St. Andrews Beach FL M ? 6/22
X         Panama City Beach FL M 48 6/22
X         Destin FL M 49 6/22
X         Panama City Beach FL M 59 6/23
X         Panama City Beach FL M 41 6/23
X         Baldwin County AL M 60 6/24
X         Galveston TX M 22 7/4
X         Washington Park IN M 17 7/6
X         Seaview Marina NY F 67 7/7
      X:1   South Haven MI M 13 7/13
      X:8   Wrightsville Beach NC M 35 7/14
  X       Nickel Plate Beach OH M 18 7/14
X         Seacrest FL M 63 7/14
X         Panama City Beach FL M ? 7/14
X         Panama City Beach FL M 61 7/14
X         Panama City Beach FL M 67 7/14
X         Daytona Beach FL F 19 7/14
    X:5     Oak Island NC M 37 7/19
  X       Nickel Plate Beach OH M 18 7/21
      X   Stream Park MI F 14 7/21
    X:3     Ludington State Park MI M 18 7/22
    X:3     Ludington State Park MI M 38 7/22
X         McGraw County Park MI M 30 7/22
    X:6     Upper Captiva FL M 40 7/22
  X       Holland State Park MI M 43 7/25
X         Indiana Dunes State Park IN M 35 7/27
X         Atlantic City NJ M ? 7/29
X         Crescent Beach FL M 22 7/30
X         Rockaway Beach NY M 18 7/30
X         Nehalem  Bay State Park OR M 38 8/2
X         Rockaway Beach NY M 15 8/4
  X       Long Sands Beach ME M ? 8/15
        X Panama City  Beach FL M 28 8/19
  X       Chicago: 33 Street Beach IL M 35 8/22
  X       Chicago: Lincoln Park IL M 26 8/22
  X       Ocean City MD M 76 8/25
X         Spring Lake NJ M 15 9/1
X         Cape Hatteras NC M 61 9/1
42 13 1 8 5         Total: 69

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.