Rip Tides Nearly Claim 70+ Lives Off Florida Coast

By Chris Jasurek
Chris Jasurek
Chris Jasurek
September 25, 2018 Updated: September 25, 2018

Going to the beach and playing in the surf may sound like the perfect way to spend a weekend, but for about 70 people along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, it was almost fatal.

Volusia County Beach Safety Capt. Mike Berard told the Orlando Sentinel that Beach Safety crews had to rescue 72 people from dangerous rip tides on Sept. 23.

One 43-year-old Orlando man remains in critical condition after nearly drowning.

The man, whose name has not yet been released, was surfing off New Smyrna Beach when he got sucked under. An off-duty lifeguard who was surfing nearby happened to see the man go under, according to Berard. That surfer pulled the victim out of the water and attempted to resuscitate him.

EMTs arrived and transported the man to a nearby hospital where he was put into the intensive care unit.

Rip tides—powerful currents flowing away from beaches rather than towards them—were active all along what is called Florida’s Treasure Coast—a very popular stretch of beachfront from Sebastian Inlet to Palm Beach, comprising Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, and Palm Beach counties.

These rip tides are compounded by high surf driven by high winds. The big waves can drive a swimmer under and into a rip tide, leading to swimmers being swept out to sea.

Weather Service Warning

The National Weather Service has issued a warning for the entire Treasure Coast. Rip tides will be especially strong during the day as the tide runs out, and heavy surf is predicted all day. offers several tips about beach safety under these conditions.

First and foremost, swimmers are advised to enter the water only when there is a lifeguard nearby.

Swimmers are also advised never to run their backs to the sea—a big wave can come along without warning and break on a swimmer, knocking the swimmer down and driving him or her under water. A big wave could even cause serious injury, rendering a person unable to swim.

If caught in a rip tide swimmers are advised to stay calm. Wasting energy fighting the current could lead to exhaustion. Swimmers are advised not to fight the current—don’t swim directly against it. Instead, try to swim parallel to the shore.

Eventually a swimmer can escape from a rip tide by swimming across it—but if a swimmer feels that he or she is getting swept too far out and might lack the strength to swim back, then wave and shout for help.

Lifeguards are out there specifically to watch for distressed swimmers, and lifeguard can swim out with a float to keep a tired swimmer above water while towing the swimmer back to the beach.


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Chris Jasurek